If sterilisation is the backbone of cat management, then I think that mediation is the glue that holds it all together. That's why we call it cat management - after the sterilisation is over, mediation is really important to help keep the cats safe where they are.
I just did a mediation over the phone an hour or so ago - was supposed to go down with a colleague later on in the week, but the caregiver decided to try and speak with the complainant today and then rang me on the phone. The complainant was very upset at first, but calmed down considerably by the end of the conversation - let's hope he agrees to let the cats be sterilised and remain where they are.
It just reminded me that over the many mediations that I've done with my colleagues that I've learnt several things :-
1. If the complaint is valid, don't dismiss it - Often complainants don't want the cats to be there because the cats are causing a problem. If the problem can be removed, many will be content with leaving the cats there. If there is a valid complaint, don't brush it away - try and work towards resolving it. Saying for example, "Why can't you be more tolerant, cauterwauling only happens every few weeks when they mate?" (which a caregiver actually told a complainant last week) is not helpful. Just as we find it really difficult to imagine why someone would not want to let a cat stay, the complainant may feel the exact opposite. It is imperative to communicate that the main thing is to solve the problem together and then to do so. No one wants defecation on their front door, whether you like cats or not.
2. Get your facts straight - When people ask, as is very common, "why don't you take the cats home if you love them so much"? have an answer ready. Make sure you understand about sterilisation and why it is done, why it is the most effective and humane means of population control, about the vacuum effect, how feeding does not cause the population to increase, why shelters alone will not work, etc. If you sound credible, people will be more inclined to believe you. If you need any information sheets, write in to the Society.
3. Try to be co-operative - If someone is not pleased the cats are sitting on their car, try moving their feeding spot for example to another area so the cats are not so near the cars. Do not expect the complainant to bend over backwards for you because they are already angry.
4. Always be polite - As hard as it can be, always keep your calm. Yelling at people will make them defensive and less likely to work with you - remember, at the end of the day, the cats are the ones to suffer if the complainant decides to keep complaining to the authorities.
5. Remember not everyone loves cats - hard to imagine as that is! However, at the same time, many people are not cruel, but are ignorant - if you can explain to them the importance of cat management they may well see your point. Most people do not want the cats to be killed - do make it a point to tell people that if the complaint is not resolved, the cats when taken away by the town council/management committee, etc will be killed. Not everyone realises this, and some complainants have stopped complaining when they learnt what happened to the cats.
6. It may be a good idea to ask a third part to mediate in some cases - It is always a good idea to try mediation first because you don't want to escalate the situation. If for example, you are both neighbours, solving it among yourselves is always the best means - it keeps the relationship friendly rather than bringing in someone else. However, there are some instances when you might want to consider asking a third party to mediate. For example, if you know that you will lose your temper, don't mediate - you will do much more harm then good. Another instance is where tempers are already frayed and/or where the complainant sees you as the source of the problem - in those cases, ask a third party to mediate. Write in to the Society if you need any help with mediation. Write in too if you think you'd like to volunteer for mediation! :)