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Beyond the Basics: How Continuous Training Transforms Mediators into Maestros

In mediation, each case is a unique human symphony. The mediator, not merely a facilitator, transcends to maestro, orchestrating resolution. This mastery isn’t instantaneous; it’s a continuous learning process. Just as a maestro wields the baton, a skilled mediator uses honed abilities to guide disputing parties toward understanding. The journey to becoming a maestro is intricate, demanding, but rewarding, each experience adding a new dimension to the mediator’s expertise

Building on Josh Kershenbaum’s idea in “Confessions of a 40-Hour Training Junkie,” each training session becomes a gateway to fresh perspectives and methods. This goes beyond knowledge; it equips mediators with diverse skills to thrive and find passion in the process. This article argues that ongoing education is vital for mediation excellence, fostering both professional growth and a love of learning. 

As a Mexican attorney my peacemaking journey began at Stanford Law School, focusing on mediation (ADR).  In San Diego, I participated in key training sessions, including the NCRC’s 40-Hour and the insightful Mosten Guthrie 40-Hour (twice!). I also embarked on private training with Forrest (Woody) Mosten. Mosten Guthrie became a special place to learn from exceptional professionals like Woody, Susan Guthrie, and Alison Beck. Their wisdom, dedication and creativity inspired me. Being a member of the Mosten Guthrie family instilled a lifelong love of learning in me.

Why the lifelong learning commitment? 

Experienced mediators benefit in three ways: a) staying relevant by adapting to evolving norms, laws, and conflict dynamics; b) enhancing their practice by specializing, and acquiring new techniques; and c) building a valuable network for collaboration and support. 

Beyond professional benefits, training fosters personal growth. It hones emotional intelligence (empathy, patience, open-mindedness, out of the box thinking) and problem-solving skills (adapting to unique situations). Just as a maestro must embrace open-mindedness, out-of-the-box thinking, and patience to master their musical craft, mediators must master these qualities to deeper understand human behavior and conflict dynamics.

In addition, mediators have a huge responsibility in being well prepared and educated. Mistakes in other professions may not have significant consequences. Poor mediation caused by incompetence and inexperience can have lifelong consequences. Inexperienced mediator John mishandled the high-stakes divorce between Sarah and David. His lack of emotional intelligence and lack of financial expertise led to a one-sided agreement favoring David. Feeling unheard, Sarah rejected the deal, plunging them into a costly legal battle that left both parties emotionally and financially drained. Ongoing education ensures mediators possess the competency and integrity to guide parties towards fair resolutions.

While the initial spark of passion for mediation might ignite during foundational training, the journey to becoming a true maestro requires a sustained commitment to lifelong learning.  This dedication unlocks a treasure trove of benefits that extend far beyond simply acquiring knowledge. As we’ll explore, ongoing education serves as the fertile ground where a mediator’s skills blossom, their understanding deepens, and their ability to navigate the complexities of human conflict reaches a whole new level.

Here are three main arguments on how training promotes lifelong learning and transforms mediators into maestros:

  1. The Laboratory of Role-Plays:  Just as a maestro refines their craft by composing new and complex pieces, mediation training provides a safe space for experimentation through role-play. Here, even seasoned mediators can explore new techniques, test different approaches, become more creative and do what they would never do in a real world mediation. Out of the experimentation a mediator might develop new skills they would have never developed in a lifelong career. In addition, experienced mediators might ‘forget’ how it feels to be in the client’s shoes and role playing often reminds mediators of what the client is feeling which can help the client feel better heard, more comfortable and understood. 
  2. The Wisdom of the Ensemble: Similar to how a talented orchestra conductor learns from the virtuosity of each musician, mediators benefit from the shared experiences of their peers. In training sessions, advanced mediators bring practical insights, illustrate complex scenarios with real-world examples, and offer valuable wisdom. This collective knowledge exchange fosters growth and equips participants with a broader range of tools to navigate even the most intricate conflicts.
  3. Expanding the Symphony: The Power of Diverse Expertise:  Much like a maestro who incorporates the unique sounds of various instruments to create a rich tapestry of music, mediation training benefits from the inclusion of experts from different fields.  For instance, a high-conflict personality expert like Billie Eddie equips mediators with strategies to handle volatile situations.  Learning child-centered approaches from Christina McGhee and Kelly Myers allow them to guide disputing parents towards common ground. Additionally, domestic violence specialists raise awareness of power struggle dynamics and their potential consequences, expanding the range of issues a mediator considers. This exposure to diverse perspectives broadens a mediator’s vision and equips them to handle a wider array of conflicts with greater confidence and skill.

As we close this exploration of how continuous training transforms mediators into maestros, it’s essential to recognize that this transformation is akin to an artist mastering their craft. Just as a maestro dedicates countless hours to perfecting every note and harmony, mediators, through relentless training and practice, fine-tune their skills in understanding, empathy, and conflict resolution. This journey from novice to expert is not merely about acquiring knowledge; it’s a deeply transformative process that molds one’s entire approach to mediation, allowing practitioners to conduct the symphony of human interaction with grace and precision. In this context, the words of renowned pianist Vladimir Horowitz resonate profoundly: “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is practice.” This quote encapsulates the essence of our journey in mediation – it is through continuous practice, a commitment to learning, and an unwavering dedication to our craft that we truly become maestros of mediation, guiding individuals towards harmony and understanding with the skill and artistry of a master musician.


Yanine Simpser

Yanine Lijtszain-Simpser is a professional mediator. In addition to having extensive experience and training, Yanine is a committed peacemaker, particularly for the underserved. Yanine is in continual training as she believes that her mediation skills always need to be at the highest level. In addition to earning a Masters in… MORE >

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