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That is Surprising – Reflections of a New Mediator

Posted on Jun 29 2017 under Blog Posts

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In my last blog post, I discussed the benefits of utilizing community mediation in the area in which you live. I mentioned that many states have community mediation centers and those centers will train volunteers in their process. In June 2016, I was trained in the inclusive mediation model to become a community mediator in my county, and it has been an educational and rewarding experience.

Every mediation I have either mediated or observed has been entirely different, which is both exciting and a little nerve-racking.  It is exciting because no situation or issue is alike which can be challenging. But, it is also nerve-racking because you never know what to expect. Some sessions you may assume will be low-conflict with minimal arguing, and then it turns out to be the opposite.

In this week’s post, I thought I would reflect on what I’ve found surprising thus far from this volunteering adventure.

One, the number of times participants come to the mediation table with a competitive mindset and try throughout the process to convince the mediators they are right. The beautiful thing about mediation is the Mediators are neutral third parties, and they cannot take sides. Although this is explained several times at the start of the session, still participants try to persuade the neutral third parties of their stance.

Two, I find it surprising how often new insights on a particular conflict are unearthed by the participants in a mediation session. In the inclusive model, we are taught to listen for feelings, values, and topics and then use a technique called reflecting to illuminate the participant’s point of view and check to make sure what is being heard is what they mean to say.  I have observed one participant learning that the other party felt isolated and alone during a particularly challenging time. When these feelings were recognized and heard, it changed the tone of the entire session and conflict.

Third, not entirely surprising but fascinating occurrence is the way both parties share a different “truth” of the conflict and believe that the way they see it is more accurate than the other’s version. I’ve heard the saying, “There are three sides to every story, yours, mine, and the truth” so this occurrence isn’t that surprising. But, I find it fascinating because we often assume that because we are involved in the same conflict, we are experiencing it the same way. When the other party shares their version of an event, and they mention parts that you didn’t see, feel, or hear, our natural inclination is to believe they are not truthful. Instead of recognizing that everyone experiences things differently.

Finally, I have been surprised by how often I leave a session feeling energized by the work the participants are doing. A resolution isn’t always achieved, but more often than not the participants have found themselves communicating more and closer to a solution than they had been before.

I have learned a lot in this last year, and I am excited about the knowledge I will acquire going forward. I hope I continue to be surprised.

 

Abigail R. C. McManus M.S. Negotiation and Conflict Management

Guest Blogger


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