Love Island needs a mediator

Why techniques in team communication can make a difference in stressful situations

Love Island, the break-out reality TV show of 2017, now in its third week of the new 2018 season, looks to repeat its success by showing us couples’ relationships in turmoil.  However, the show is only partially about romantic attachments, it also explores friendship – a case in point being last year’s ‘bromance’ between Chris Hughes and Kem Cetinay. As a group of young people are forced to live together many of the rules of team dynamics come into play.

The predominant model of Team Development by Bruce Tuckman from 1963 considers four stages of a team’s life cycle: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. In the first week of Love Island, we saw the ‘Forming’ of a team as the participants got to know each other, some slightly wary and most not wanting to cause offence to the others. While things have been heated (most notably between Eyal and Hayley, Eyal and Alex and Eyal and pretty much everyone) people were certainly quite polite to one another in the earlier episodes.

‘Storming’, as its name suggests, is about personalities clashing, individuals being themselves and rubbing-up each other in the wrong way. ‘Norming’ is when people start making allowances for each other and ‘Performing’ is when relationships are working well. What the producers of Love Island want is good TV. This means keeping things interesting and changing the dynamic to ensure many of the participants remain in ‘Storming’ mode. Couples and friendships are constantly subjected to shake-ups through the introduction of new group members (often in an unanticipated way) and challenges designed to unnerve contestants and make them second guess and even end their relationships.

In CEDR’s book, How to Master Negotiation (published by Bloomsbury Business 2015) in my chapter on negotiating teams, I argue that there is a fifth stage in the development model – ‘Boring’. This is when people become so familiar with each other they become complacent, lack energy and things become predictable. That is the last thing that the makers of Love Island want, which makes it an absolute necessity for new people to be flown into the Island. Without fail, as soon as the contestants start to settle down and begin to enjoy themselves and work on their relationships and friendships, someone shouts “I’ve got a text” signalling the next round of shakeups.

However, whilst ‘Storming’ is a natural part of team development, it can be eased through the use of a communications expert who uses the skills of a mediator. Mediators are taught to listen actively, to understand and uncover individuals’ interests and to reframe conversations to be more productive. Sometimes you get a ‘natural’ mediator in a group of people but usually, these are skills which are most successfully taught and learnt rather than being innate.

So what would a mediator on Love Island be doing? They would certainly be hanging out around the pool with the residents, to ensure they were hearing each other’s positions and that communication was remaining friendly in tone. There would be little a mediator could or should do late at night if the alcohol had been flowing and tempers had become flared, but they would arrive in the morning (with the hangovers) to get those who’d been in disagreement talking again. But would this make for a summer’s worth of gripping TV?

Love Island probably promises many surprises this year but, for the sake of good TV, getting a mediator to walk into the house is probably the least likely of them all.

If you want to learn mediation skills here’s how –

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