Uncovering a client’s deeper needs and interests is the secret sauce of mediation. As it turns out, it’s also the heart of good coaching and communication.
I recently took a 9-month coach training course, Coaching for Transformation, at New York’s Open Center. The course was developed and led by Leadership that Works (LTW), an organization that trains leaders and change makers from all fields. The robustness of the course is what many have called for in mediation training—it included 140 class hours, 100 practice coaching hours, mentoring, and a written examination. In addition, we worked with our own coach during the process.
Over those 9 months, the relevance of coaching skills to mediation was impossible to miss. In fact, I came to see the skills as best practice communication skills for client focused interactions, especially where there is conflict. Here are just a few of the skills explored in the program:
Self-Management: Noticing and recalibrating when we are triggered or our attention is pulled away to our own thoughts and experiences rather than those of our clients.
Asking Empowering Questions: Asking open-ended (What or How) questions that evoke values, self-reflection, clarity, and insight. An example might include, “What is important about this?”
Naming what’s Present: Describing what’s happening in the moment and what we sense is underneath the surface.
Clarifying: Articulating, reframing, or asking empowering questions that confirm and expand understanding of the needs and values at play.
Reflecting: Mirroring words, energy, feelings, needs, values or vision.
Exploring the Metaview: Helping our clients see the big picture or birds-eye view of a situation in order to move out of tunnel vision.
Embracing Polarities: Naming experiences, ideas, feelings or needs that appear to be in conflict and holding them with respect, without making one side more important than the other.
Moving into Action: Co-creating or requesting movement toward goals that are aligned with client’s values, vision, and desires.
Many of us do some of these things already in our practices. But naming, defining, and unpacking the skills undeniably takes the game up a notch. I was one of four attorneys participating in the training, and revelations were commonplace among us throughout the program. We got clued more deeply into subtleties like holding space in a communication or noticing and bringing to light nonverbal cues from clients. We also got versed in the not so subtle, such as urges to intervene and problem solve and how to maintain the integrity of a session with difficult clients.
If you are interested to expand your practice as a mediator, but need a lighter commitment than a 9-month certification program, you’re in luck. LTW will offer a one day CLE program to attorneys and mediators in NYC on May 6th, 2016.