The Mediation Times


The story of a child called Mediation

by Amanda on August 4, 2009

I have been reading the interesting and diverse posts about the issues of training, education and ‘credentialing’ which represent the passion and commitment of my colleagues across the globe to a credible profession of mediators. I have remembered a paper I presented in October 2007 for the Quarterly Lecture at the invitation of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. I spoke about the mediation profession coming of age and what it might look like and I think that it may be even more relevant now with the passage of time. The full text is available here.

The introduction was a story about a child called Mediation…

Here is the story of a child called Mediation

Mediation was adopted and he was much wanted. His parents naturally dreamed that he would grow up to make a difference, be successful and happy and make lots of money. And they worried that his brightness would have to survive the rigors of the ‘real world’ and they knew they would protect him on that journey. They also worried quietly that they did not know his heritage and that he would always be an unknown quantity.

At two years old this child was showing real promise. He was very advanced for his age: chatting and full of curiosity, pulling at the hem of its mother’s skirt saying ‘notice me, notice me, I’m different!’ People were charmed but they didn’t pay too much attention.

My world shines with possibility

My world shines with possibilities Photo ©Dimitris Papazimouris

At primary school, he outperformed all the other children. Occasionally the teachers made encouraging noises but most of the time they worried that this child was trying to be too different. “Mediation is doing very well but he needs to be more focused.” “Mediation needs to concentrate more and follow the class.” “He gets there in the end and frequently surprises us but we are concerned…”
Put another way, the establishment was getting rather perplexed by the fact that Mediation simply didn’t do what was expected but was performing quite brilliantly. And his generally happy and energetic demeanor was quite frankly irritating.

At 12 Mediation was quite precocious and very independent. His parents worried endlessly about bad influences and bad behaviour. They knew they would lose their influence one day but they were not quite prepared for it to be now. They hoped and prayed it was just a phase.

Sure enough Mediation came home with bad habits and some very distorted thinking. For example, he found all sorts of things interesting which had no basis in fact. He was also very adaptive; you could see him transform his way of being to suit whatever he was doing and whomever he was with. Sometimes he appeared quite inconsistent. It was hard to get a handle on his personality and some found that difficult to deal with. His older brother was so much more stable and predictable although rather less engaging and certainly less happy.

At 16 Mediation wanted to do psychology, philosophy, anthropology and physiology at A Level. Good Grief! What was he going to do with all those soft subjects? There were big arguments at home!  “What about medicine, law? Or if you must engineering?” “Get something solid behind you… You can do all that other stuff later on.” Mediation compromised. He did English instead of anthropology.

At 18 Mediation was very keen to take a course at a middle ranking university. His grades would have secured him a place at Oxford or Cambridge. His parents were horrified that he should turn down a place at Oxford. Mediation’s elder brother was doing Law at UCL. A brilliant student and destined for great things.

And here we have the crossroads. And the conflict.

This is where I think we are in defining our profession. The crossroads is about – should it look like the established professions or should it be something new. Until now we have been borrowing from established professions and principally the legal profession. There have been benefits and disadvantages to that phenomenon. Until now I don’t think it has mattered but I think it will matter more for the future  as we come to understand better what it is that makes mediation work and what makes mediators proficient.

To explore further I need to spend a little time talking about what makes a profession. Download full text to read more


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