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Have You Reflected Lately? (For Mediators, Coaches and Ombuds)

by Jeff Thompson
January 2011

From Jeff Thompson's Enjoy Mediation Blog

Jeff Thompson

After reading Alex Yaroslavsky's recent blog post titled "The Value of Language," I thought about reflection and debriefing. It is something I think is very valuable and is critical for mediators to do in order to learn and develop into a more effective mediator.


One thing that comes to my mind is though does everyone debrief?
For mediators that have their own practice and work by themselves, do you debrief? Do you find it effective doing a self debrief compared to debriefing with someone else? Is it even practical to be able to debrief with someone else? For conflict coaches and ombudsman- how do you debrief after a session with a client?

From my experience, it seems much easier for mediators working with community mediation centers to have the opportunity to debrief, especially with someone else, however I wonder what does everyone else do. That does not mean though it is impossible or not worth doing for those who mediate alone.

Do I debrief?
Admittedly not as much as I should. When I do, the method I choose is is to take a quiet moment, yes sometimes that actually is while on the New York City Subway, and reflect on what happened, the good, the bad, the simple and complex. Sometimes I go over it in my head, and other times I use my moleskin notebook (as recommended by Amanda Bucklow on Cafe Mediate) to jot down notes and thoughts as they come to my head. I ask myself, "What worked, and "What didn't work" while also asking myself why I think something did or did not work.

For me it helps me understand. Sometimes it helps me actually understand that I did not understand what was going during a moment in the mediation and other times, yes, I do "pat" myself on the back.
Positive reinforcement is something I suggest each mediator, conflict coach and ombudsman do. Debriefing does not have to be just analyzing what you think you did wrong and what you might have done differently. Make sure to take time to think about the good you did. This positive thinking allows you to not only be mindful of what to try and repeat in future situations but also allow yourself to actually feel good.

Here are some tips that help me while debriefing:

  • Actually take the time to reflect

  • Try to do it as soon as the session completes

  • Ask yourself could you have done something differently?

  • Make a list of what you did good

  • Try discussing it with someone else (yes, this is possible while maintaining confidentiality)
For those that have your own style of debriefing, how does this compare to your style? For those who do not, do you think it might help?

Enjoy!

Biography


Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is a professor at Lipscomb University, researcher, mediator, and trainer. He is also involved in crisis and hostage negotiation as well as a law enforcement detective. His research includes law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiation in terrorist incidents. He received his doctorate from Griffith University Law School having researched the impact nonverbal communication has in conflict situations with respect to developing rapport, building trust, and displaying professionalism.

Dr. Thompson has presented and trained on the topic of conflict, mediation, (crisis and hostage) negotiation, communication and nonverbal communication internationally for a variety of audiences including police personnel, government officials, judges, attorneys, physicians, sales people, business professionals, and both graduate and undergraduate students. He has also been published in numerous professional and academic publications.

He is the co-chair of ACR's national Crisis Negotiation Section, and he is an ad-hoc reviewer for multiple academic journals. He received his MS in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Werner Institute, Creighton University School of Law.

(All posts by Jeff Thompson represent his personal reflections and opinions and not that of any organization.)



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