It is common for delegates attending our 6 day ILM endorsed Professional Workplace Mediator training, to arrive thinking it is going to be easier to learn to mediate than it turns out to be. Participants often bring many people management skills and lots of experience to the course-leadership, managerial, problem solving, coaching- and so don’t expect mediation to be such a stretch. However, some things that mediators do are the exact opposite of what people are used to doing in their day jobs. Providing solutions is a classic example- something that good mediators don’t do but which is a normal part of many jobs. So to develop as a mediator the habits of a life time need to change and that isn’t always easy!
Most of us, either by character or training, are goal and solution focussed. In mediation however being overly focussed on the goal can be counter- productive. With time mediators learn to replace goal focus with responsiveness – responding in the moment to what is happening in the room.
Learning some new skills is straightforward – if there is just one way to do something, once you’ve learnt it and practised a bit you are skilled. Learning to mediate is different. Mediation is an art not a science and there is more to being an artist than knowing how to hold a paintbrush. Trainees need a strong foundation, they need to know the structure of the mediation process and the steps that are involved in taking people through it, but each mediation will be different, so mediators have to be flexible, responsive and creative. As well as the structure, trainee mediators need to learn the language of mediation and it can feel like learning a new language. They also need to develop an awareness of their own relationship with conflict, and, of course, they need to practice. They spend time on all these things during our course, which prepares them well for their mediation journey.
Our primary aim is not to produce efficient mediation technicians but to help people to start thinking like mediators. Our course will provide the foundation on which delegates can develop into artists. No-one gets to that point in six days. Once they have learnt key brush strokes and are familiar with the framework, developing artistry comes from continually reflecting on what they are doing, being curious about what’s working and what isn’t, adapting when needed, seeking feedback and knowing that for a mediator there is always more to learn. A good mediator does all of this from a place of empathy, both for the participants and for them as the mediator.
A mediator manages the conversation between conflicting parties and also has to manage themselves. How is their own relationship with conflict impacting the conversation? What’s happening with their own emotions? Are they staying impartial, not siding with one or the other? Is their mind full or are they being mindful-fully focussed on what is happening in the room? Are they able to step out of the paradigm of good and bad, right and wrong?
Continually paying attention, noticing and responding both outwardly and inwardly is essential for developing artistry and takes time, practice and support. You won’t come out of a mediation training as the perfect mediator but you will come out of it with life enhancing skills for working with others and working with yourself, and you will have begun the journey towards mastery with the knowledge that it is a journey which never ends.