Spotlight on Senior Neutral Sally Akins…Speaking the Language of Compromise and Resolution

From an early age, full-time mediator and senior neutral Sally Akins has understood the importance of language. She developed this keen awareness while growing up in South America with her family due to her father’s work.

 

She quickly learned Spanish in order to better communicate with the locals and assimilate into the culture. Sometimes, when struggling for a word in Spanish, Sally would resort to motions or facial expressions to convey her need. Other times, she would choose a similar word to reach the same result.

 

Mediation is often considered its own “language” – one that is spoken as much with intonation and inflection as it is with words. Sally’s early training as a bilingual speaker has proven to be a great training ground for understanding, and responding to, a variety of languages.

 

Mediation works successfully because it addresses the root of so many conflicts – miscommunication. When parties misspeak, misunderstand or misinterpret (both verbal and non-verbal cues), they quickly find themselves on divergent paths, ultimately reaching a point where they need a “translator” to bridge the divide.

 

When working with both sides in a mediation, Sally first listens and then begins the important work of interpreting the language being spoken (or sometimes intimated non-verbally) by both plaintiffs and defense counsel. The end goal is to guide each party toward hearing and understanding what the other is saying or needing and, finally, to speak the same language – the language of compromise and resolution.

 

“Hi Sally,

 

I hope this finds you well. I wanted to say thank you for all your hard work, diligence and genuine concern over the settlement you oversaw for my legal case.

 

Thank you for giving me a ( safe) space to voice my concerns and I truly feel you had the case’s best outcome at heart.

 

You are kind, fair, honest and your integrity and humor shines through your work.

 

Many thanks and much respect for all you do.” ~anonymous for privacy

 

Today’s pandemic environment has furthered complicated the ability for opposing sides to communicate because of facial coverings/masks. Most everyone can relate to having difficulty speaking through a mask or hearing someone clearly because of the muffling nature of a face covering. It also renders reading facial expressions to determine someone’s mood almost impossible. Again, having a trained “translator” like Sally helps to overcome these obstacles.

 

In fact, Sally has taken the in-person mediation masks requirement and given it a positive spin, as she does with most things. Sally embraced this “new normal” by sewing masks for her Miles colleagues, as well as family, friends, lawyers, and judges statewide. She prided herself on sourcing fabric that spoke to each person’s likes and interest – for example, Georgia bulldog masks for the UGA fan.

 

 

Sally herself can be recognized by the “peace” mask that she wears for in-person mediations, purposefully setting the stage for civility, cooperation and communication. All told, Sally has stitched over 200 masks and hopes her handiwork will soon be merely a memento of her attempt to bring some joy to the art of communicating during COVID-19.

 

If you are looking for a trained communicator to adeptly “translate” your client’s message to the other side, schedule a mediation for your next case with Sally here.