Mediating for VH1’s The Family Hustle

It was late on a weekend night and I was flipping through the stations when I stopped on TI and Tiny: The Family Hustle on VH1. Tiny, AKA Tameka and her friend Shekinah were heading to a mediator’s office. What are the chances I would catch this show, right???

So Tiny and Shekinah are good friends and it turns out that Shekinah, a hairdresser, has come up with a money-making “invention” and Tiny has decided to invest in it. Tiny wants 60% of the profits leaving Shekinah with only 40% and, you guessed it, conflict ensues. Big, emotional conflict between friends. Yuck! But who’s right? Without the money, the idea can’t be executed and without the idea, there is no money to be made. They decide to call a Mediator. How perfect…

What happens in the mediator’s office is exactly what I expected – a lot of yelling and arguing about whose role is more important. Even more expected is the fact that they also argue about side issues related to their friendship. The yelling escalates and things start to get ugly. The mediator looks a bit stunned and unsure how he is going to calm them down and move on. Check out the video here.

When Shekinah finally stands up and says she is leaving, the Mediator takes action. He does a move called the “walk to the balcony” which translates to walking away from the heat and cooling things off. He gets up and says he is getting a cup of coffee and invites Shekinah to go with him. She does. At the coffee machine, after a few niceties, he point-blank asks Shekinah how much of the profits she wants. She says she will settle for 44% of the profits. Yup…you heard me…44%. All that arguing and she only wants 4% more than what was being offered. He takes her back into the room and lays that offer on Tiny. Not only does Tiny take the deal but her assent brings the validation so desperately needed by Shekinah to feel good. There is love and happiness oozing all over the place.

Ok… It’s a reality show I know but I must say that we see this scenario a lot – that is, when emotion so takes over a conflict that people stop communicating productively. Shekinah and Tiny were classically “position-based” and could not see their way out to even negotiate hard numbers. Tiny wanted 60% and Shekinah did not want 40% – that is as far as their communication went in terms of productivity. The rest of the emotion was all about lack of respect and side issues. Because they are unbiased, Mediators can ask questions that the participants sometimes cannot ask themselves because their pride is in the way, they have boxed themselves in or they just don’t think of asking.

Kudos to the mediator for doing a good and efficient job with this case and kudos to the women for having the foresight to call a mediator. Even if it was all a setup for the show, more people should think about using a mediator when conflict gets too hot rather than digging their heels in and not believing any good will come of it. When you are in too deep your perspective is no good – a Mediator can help pull parties out of the bubble they have created for themselves.