When my Advanced Mediation and Negotiation course started at Riverdale Mediation Hilary Linton took to the podium and asked all the attendees what their expectations were from the course. We took turns going around the room and we all had similar answers that were based around an increased knowledge in the practical work in mediation. Sometimes the question was hard to answer because we didn’t know what we didn’t know. I was last to respond and my answer was, “I want to learn three new things”. Based on the fact that I didn’t know what I didn’t know; I was keen to keep an open mind to learn something new. I just didn’t know what that was yet.
So, what three things did I learn in my Advanced Mediation and Negotiation course that would strengthen my practice?
First: I learnt that there are many talented mediators with different levels of knowledge about an array of topics. Some came from a child-focused background and truly understood the psychology of a child’s development at various growth stages. Others focused their practice on the properties issues surrounding divorce and co-mediated the family aspects with other mediators who focused on the relationships between the parents and their children. Each respective mediator brought their wisdom to their mediations. It clarified, for me, that in the interest of being the ‘neutral’ in the room it didn’t mean you had to compromise other skills that you brought to the table. Asking the right questions at the right time or being known for your specialty will bring you clients that are tailored to your service offering.
Two: Be intuitive and open to explore. Sometimes the reason for impasse is not surface level. Clearly, some people will engage over assets that can hold up the process for multiple sessions. Using tools available to mediators such as caucus, bringing in other professionals with a particular specialty or simply asking the right question at the right time can bring forth the self-realization the client needs to move forward. It really isn’t about that precious piece of furniture after all.
Three: Mediators can and should divide the substantive issues from the procedural issues. There might be times that shuttle mediation is appropriate. There might be times when co-mediation is an alternative. Each client’s separation and divorce are different. Understanding how the procedural issues can affect the outcome can provide clarity and a smoother resolution process.
I left the course feeling that I had made some good professional friends who made me feel a lot less alone in my path to understanding and employing excellent mediation tools to ensure I do the best job for my clients. If I were to add a fourth lesson it would be that we are always learning from not only each other but from our client’s and our experiences. It was nice to share those with each other in the classroom whether they were students, such as myself, or the knowledgeable facilitators who had so much to share.