Michael Jacobs has been a practicing mediator for nearly sixteen years. He loves what he does and wishes he had the humility to refer to himself as a peacemaker. Currently he trains mediators in both family and workplace mediation. He lives just outside of Hereford in the UK.
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To Be Effective, Mediators Should Learn to be More . . . Stupid?
In order to be effective, trainee mediators need to unlearn much of what they think they already know.
After twenty years practice and at the point of retirement, one of my mediator colleagues reflected on her experience of working with people in dispute. What struck her most forcefully was how rare it was for people to be able to disagree constructively. Disagreement inevitably ended up as conflict. At which point, people no longer had different points of view, they had a fight.
From Problems to People
My starting assumption for this article is that the work we do is largely defined by the problems we face. To put it crudely, there's a world of difference between the problems faced by a meteorologist responsible for forecasting the local weather and the problems confronting a surgeon who must decide the best place for an initial incision. And both of these are very different from the mediator sitting with a separating couple locked in conflict.
Mediation Feedback: Who is it For?
This article is the result of switching seats – moving from practitioner to party. Every mediation service I've worked for sends out feedback forms. Sometimes immediately after sessions, sometimes a few weeks later. This experience made me question the importance of mediation evaluation.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Mediator?
I train mediators. Do these courses turn students into mediators? And the short answer is, of course not. Mediation isn't some mechanical process. All the research points to the primacy of the practitioner's ability to 'do the right thing at the right time' rather than slavishly following a prescribed model. Mediation is a way of seeing, thinking and responding.
I Didn't Leave the Children
From a mediator's perspective, slowing down, taking care to name truly, and to value messiness, are key elements of our practice. To break the cycle of attack/defend ("You left us/I didn't leave the children") is only possible by creating a space wide enough to encompass the complexity of where they currently stand. These perspectives are gathered from 16 mediators in a recent advanced family mediation training.
"I'm Sorry You Feel Like That . . ."
People often expect an apology in mediation. What they get is sometimes true repentance, and sometimes an insult disguised an apology. This articles helps mediators spot the difference between the two and to guide parties from escalating a conflict to forgiveness.
Making Mediators More Stupid
Much of current mediation training is consciously ‘additive’, in that it puts forward various frameworks, theories and models. This article argues, only partially tongue-in-cheek, that training mediators is fundamentally ‘subtractive’. That in order to be effective, trainee mediators need to unlearn much of what they think they already know. The article refers to this process of unlearning as becoming ‘more stupid’.
Most mediators begin from an idealistic stance – searching for better ways to deal with conflict, to encourage greater collaboration, to promote peace. It’s only after spending years with people locked in conflict, dealing with the minutia of their disputes, that these ideals can begin to slip. It seems that no matter how skilled we become, the world can always generate more conflict. Peace begins to feel an impossible dream. Eventually, with tired hearts, we give up the chase.
On Beating Bullies
Tackling bullying may involve a counter-intuitive approach. While naming and shaming may leave us feeling morally superior, it might also produce ever more subtle forms of bullying. This article argues that we need to encourage those of us who feel like kicking butts to ‘come in from the cold’.
Powered by Paradox
Power is an issue no mediator can afford to ignore. This includes the power we have as practitioners. This article argues that much of the power we have as mediators comes from our capacity to embrace a fundamental paradox that lies at the heart of our practice.
The Boundaries Of Engagement
People come to mediation in pain – and sometimes leave in the same state. Having endeavoured to make a difference – and failed – where does this leave us in terms of our professional engagement?
How About Making Mediators More Stupid? A Training Agenda
Much of current mediation training is consciously "additive," in that it puts forward various frameworks, theories and models. This article argues, only partially tongue-in-cheek, that training mediators is fundamentally "subtractive." That in order to be effective, trainee mediators need to unlearn much of what they think they already know. The article refers to this process of unlearning as becoming "more stupid."
Turning Parents Into People
In the world of family mediation, the ‘best interests of the children’ often take central stage. There is much to argue for in this position. While not ignoring the voice of the child, we may also need to spend time reflecting on what it might mean to also work in the ‘best interests of adults’.
On Finding Uncommon Ground
There’s a prevailing belief that mediation is about ‘finding common ground’ Mediators often exert subtle pressure in trying to squeeze positions closer together in an effort to demonstrate overlapping territory. This article argues that such pressure towards commonality may in fact be counterproductive.