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It's Changed Who I Am

by Dan Simon
September 2012

Twin Cities Mediation by Dan Simon

Dan Simon

In the last few weeks, I’ve exchanged emails with transformative mediators from throughout the USA and Europe. I asked them how working as a transformative mediator has affected them personally and professionally; and I asked them what’s surprised them most about their work. In the next 3 posts, I'll share what they said. Thanks to the following mediators who participated: Erik Cleven of Lafeyette, IN; Marko Irsic of Ljubljana, Slovenia; Carlo Mosca of Venice Italy; Kristine Paranica of Grand Forks, ND; Nethe Plenge of Frederiksberg, Denmark; Dusty and Vicki Rhoades of Maryland; and Michelle Zaremba of Dayton, OH.

Today's post focuses on how these mediators' work has affected them personally.

Because transformative mediation can affect disputants so profoundly, it makes sense that practitioners’ experience would also be meaningful. But it’s not so obvious that practitioners would also experience changes in their personal lives as a result of their work. It turned out that all of the transformative mediators I asked said that their work has, indeed, affected them personally.

A Better Listener
Several of the mediators I corresponded with said that practicing transformative mediation has helped them become better listeners. Michelle Zaremba, of Dayton, Ohio said “It has affected my friendships because I feel like I’m a better listener . . .” Dusty Rhoades of Maryland said “I am more willing to let go of the urge to step in and ‘fix’ things. I am now more likely to support my professional colleagues and subordinates in a way that allows and encourages them to find their own answers to problems and solutions to challenges.” And Eric Cleven of Lafeyette, IN adds “. . . it’s influenced. . . how I interact with colleagues and friends in daily life.” All of the mediators said something about an improved ability to pay attention to others.

Less Judgmental
Some mediators said that practicing transformative mediation has made them less judgmental. “I’ve become a much more accepting and less judgmental person,” said Vicki Rhoades of Maryland. Kristy Paranica, of Grand Forks, ND said it’s “led me to see that there are paths each of us choose that is right for us in the moment, and often the best choice given what we know about our own situation.” So in addition to an increased ability to pay attention to others, the mediators described a greater capacity to listen without judging.

Made Me a Better Co-worker, Boss, Spouse, Parent and Friend
Listening non-judgmentally to family, friends and colleagues seems to fit with a sense of being simply “better” at their relationships. Cleven and Dusty Rhoades mentioned friends and colleagues; Zaremba said it’s made her “a better mother to her 3 and 4 year-olds”; all the mediators mentioned improved ability to relate to at least someone.

These profound personal affects were not necessarily what these mediators were seeking when they became transformative mediators. In the next several days, I’ll post what they said about how the practice has affected them professionally, and maybe most importantly, how it’s affected their clients.

Biography


Dan Simon writes the blog for the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation. He is a national leader in the field of transformative mediation.  He practices and teaches it in Saint Paul, Minnesota.  He's trained mediators throughout the country for the U.S. Postal Service, the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation, and as an Adjunct Professor at the Hofstra University School of Law. He serves on the Minnesota Supreme Court's ADR Ethics Board, is the Immediate Past Chair of the Minnesota State Bar Association's ADR Section; and he serves on the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation. He has been the director of Twin Cities Mediation since he founded it in 1998. He helps with divorces, parenting differences, real estate issues, employment cases, business disputes, and neighbor to neighbor conflicts.



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