The Mediation Times


Mediation is a process… not an event

by Amanda on November 12, 2009

There is nothing like training new mediators to bring you out of autopilot and to bring alive the challenge we have in conveying what we practice. From the students’ point of view, they want to know exactly what is appropriate and what is not so that they can build their competence to a standard that will lead to accreditation. From the trainer’s point of view, the challenge of bringing a set of rules to a flexible process, is a very real one. So when a student asks “is is right to…? The answer is invariably  “it depends…”


Illustration: by Amanda

For people who come from a background of facts and evidence this is like catching jelly with an egg cup or trying to put handcuffs on an octopus! If you see mediation as a process and not an event and that you need to make the transition from judgment of others to judging appropriate action and interventions in yourself then it is not such a conundrum. Mediation is a process and “appropriate action (or inaction)” depends on what has gone before and where the parties want to get to. Our skills are in the moment-by-moment awareness of what will work and still keeping the big picture in mind.

Thanks to Jane Gunn for reminding me of a training course we did where one participant answered the question: “what is the most important thing you have learned on the course?” with “it depends!” It raised the roof with laughter!

Tammy Lenski
Tammy Lenski

Handcuffing an octopus was the perfect image for me! Made me laugh, too.

Tammy Lenski
Tammy Lenski

Amanda, you've described this challenge -- for both teacher and leaner -- so well! In my mind, it's why "mediator training" needs to be replaced by "mediator education." Training implies brief imparting of a series of steps, as in a recipe, while education implies learning how to work with ingredients in a variety of ways, depending on situation, people, etc. I'm glad folks like you are helping keep this conversation front and center for the field.

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