A Little Context: In my work as a volunteer mediator in in both court referred cases and divorce and family cases, have been “paired” with a co-mediator. Apart from the divorce work, I often have just enough time to say hello, talk briefly about working,” cross my fingers” and “jump on in.”
The Challenge of the Pairing Approach to Co-Mediation
The “pairing approach” in short term work such as summary process and small claims may be bumpy but at least it is short. If the volunteers are part of a cohort with many familiar faces and there are facilitated processes and learning sessions after engagements, there may be opportunities to debrief and to learn about oneself and about working with others. However, the “pairing approach” can be more challenging in longer term engagements, such as working with a couple in conflict, with work teams, with a family trying to make difficult decisions, etc. In these instances, the connections between the co-mediators -their styles, listening and summarizing skills, their tempos and rhythms coupled with their comfort with anger, conflict, and silences and knowing when and how to intervene become even more crucial in our capacity to effectively do our job.
The Value of Effective Co-Mediation
The good news for those of us who come to mediation with past experiences in human and team dynamics as well as working with co-facilitators, partners or co-consultants with whom we have had long term relationships is that we appreciate the richness of two perspectives, the value of interventions different from our own and the chance to plan and to process together to enhance learning and creativity. These relationships require time to develop. Making a commitment to the process, the ability to manage feedback, honesty and openness to exploration and skills in honoring our differences is central to the process
Opportunities to Learn to Work Together?
The value of two perspectives is part of the bedrock of the co-mediation model, yet so far, I have not read much about training co-mediators in the art of mediating together. Most of the training courses from the required introductory courses to in specialty areas do not spend significant time on “how to co-mediate effectively” in both short and longer-term engagements. Most of us muddle through and over time may be fortunate to be paired multiple times with partners we have learned to work with and who we respect and enjoy.
Simple Thought Number One: The Learning Loop
Simple Thought Number Two: A Template
A More Complicated Thought: Training and Education
Conclusion: Self As Instrument
Mediation is a human, not mechanistic process. As practitioners who are intervening in human systems, we use our “self” to do what we do. Our self is the instrument and the greater our knowledge of ourselves in relationship to others, the more successful we will be.
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