June 21, 2017
By Chuck Doran and Vincent Lowney
Since we started training mediators in 1994, we’ve learned that people take mediation training for different reasons. Some want to understand mediation from a neutral’s perspective so they can be better advocates for their clients at the mediation table. Others could not resist the allure of pursuing a career in mediation (we’ll introduce some of these mediators in an upcoming blog post). We also discovered that a majority of people who train as mediators are simply looking to build their skills and incorporate mediation into the work they are already doing.
So what can you gain from a mediation training? Recently, we collected reflections from participants in MWI’s Forty-Hour Mediation Training last May to answer that question.
Several participants found that the principle of self-determination, which empowers the parties to create and determine the outcome in mediation, fits with their industries’ values and needs.
A dean at a university emphasized that learning the skills to empower others to resolve their own issues was incredibly helpful in her role and her industry in general:
“Rather than dictate to faculty, we prefer them to come up with their own solutions and plans for challenges facing the campus and college. Thus, helping faculty come up with their own ideas and implement them is a large part of what we try to do in our office. The mediation process is designed precisely to do just that, so it was a perfect fit for our internal philosophy.”
A chaplain felt a strong tie between the training’s focus on helping others find their own solutions and her own ethic of service:
“[The mediator’s] role is one of companion and [expert] navigator . . . toward the life underlying the issue presented. It is a privilege to serve others in this way . . . no matter the setting.”
To empower parties to reach their own agreements and take charge of the resolution process, mediators learn to focus on what it is that the parties really want and need. In Getting to Yes, the authors define these as interests. Interest-based mediation assists parties in finding creative solutions by asking thoughtful questions.
A lawyer stated that her biggest takeaway was the power of inquiry for mediators:
“. . . the power of the question, ‘What is important to you?’ especially when asked in an open, non-judgmental way. It communicates … what matters to that person, regardless of why it matters or even whether it should matter.”
A lawyer and nurse who plans on using the mediation skills in the medical field recognized that helping parties identify their interests and generate options, rather than telling them what to do, was a powerful tool for mediators:
“The other big take away for me is the need to facilitate the focus on future interests rather than dividing or separating things which stirs the emotion from some past drama. Reframing the interests is a must-have skill in the mediator’s toolbox.”
A retired doctor also lauded the power of inquiry to engage participants and generate solutions, stating:
“In addition to active listening, open-ended questions can elicit much more information than something more narrow. I think that being inquisitive with a tone of curiosity is more natural and effective than a narrow inquisition.”
On top of the skills participants gain through mediation training, recent trainees also appreciated the opportunity to engage with a community of mediation and dispute resolution professionals. Beyond the MWI trainers and coaches, participants enjoyed getting to know their fellow trainees and build a network with one another. A law student found that:
“Professionally, besides exploring the mediation career path, I found it to be a great networking opportunity and really enjoyed meeting people with different backgrounds and perspectives.”
Many groups of participants stay in touch after the training to share lessons from their mediations, continue to build mediation skills with one another, and find opportunities to collaborate. Even for those who have some skills in mediation, negotiation, or dispute resolution, the chance to develop a network with like-minded and similarly-skilled mediators is a great opportunity to grow in the field.
Ultimately, what you gain from a mediation training depends on your goals. Mediation training can serve as the foundation for a new career, enhance your communication skills to improve your current career, and provide a network of dispute resolution experts and like-minded professionals.
If you’re wondering what you might be able to gain from a mediation training, contact Chuck Doran at 617-895-4026 or email@example.com to learn more.