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 this post, I'll share what they said has surprised them most. 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.
Some mediators were surprised how high their settlement rates were. Michelle Zaremba commented that when her organization made the switch (from a problem-solving or Facilitative model), their settlement rates remained as high as ever. Carlo Mosca credits transformative mediation for his center’s extremely high settlement rates. His own center has an 83% rate of settlement, as compared with an average of 48% throughout Italy. Carlo believes the use of classic problem-solving in other centers leads to their relatively lower settlement rate; and he attributes his center’s high settlement rate to “the magic of empowerment”. Carlo, himself, had switched from a problem-solving model, and he noticed that as he let go of his attachment to settlement, his clients become more likely to settle. He summed up his experience in this way:
So it seems absolutely evidenced that, the more the parties feel free to determine their own future, the more they are willing to find mutually agreed solutions. It’s the magic of empowerment, at the end of the day.
Michelle Zaremba also noticed that, in addition to high settlement rates, transformative mediations take less time. Michelle speculates that the parties’ ability to talk about exactly what matters most to them accounts for the shorter mediation times.
Nethe Plenge shared that her favorite result of transformative mediation sessions is when the parties tell her she can leave and that they will continue to sort things out by themselves.
Kristine Paranica summed up what was so surprising in this way: “That people who have been entrenched in conflict when everyone, including they, have lost hope, can find their strength, their voice, their compassion, and come together to offer apologies, consider new perspectives, and the work together to make decisions that would lead to improved relationships. And Kristy described a recent workplace mediation in which two employees had not talked meaningfully in 6 years - after 3 hours of mediation, there had been “tears, apologies, and co-created ideas for better communication and improving workplace climate” - and the employees stayed and talked to each other for an hour after Kristine left.
What surprised Eric Kleven the most was how deeply the principles of transformative mediation resonated with people he trained in Kenya, given that these trainees had experienced serious ethnic and political conflict and violence, and had experienced the peace-building efforts of various NGO’s in the past. Transformative mediation’s principles stood in stark contrast to those that other NGO’s followed. Other NGO’s had made decisions before starting their work about the direction that their efforts needed to go. As the Kenyan’s input was not genuinely allowed to affect the direction of the work, the Kenyans felt that these NGO’s did not trust them.
In another culture, presumably different from Kenya, transformative mediation also seems to be particularly helpful. Marko Irsic describes his fellow Slovenians as particularly conflict avoidant, yet stubborn. And he says they sue each other at an incredibly high rate. Marko has found that, even with these cultural tendencies, lawsuits can be avoided and problems solved when direct communication is supported by transformative mediation.