They say that what separates a good mediator from a great one is a quality of self-reflection; an ability to look within and continuously evaluate not only one’s performance, but one’s character. It’s an interesting concept, that after all the training and in addition to all the practice and continuous skill-building, there’s a third element – almost like the “zen” of mediation – that only comes with a great deal of time and thought.
This include qualities like being able to hold two fundamentally incompatible realities in your hands at once and nurture them both, allowing them to co-exist and building bridges between them. Caring for all the participants in the room, even if, or especially if, they are being difficult, uncooperative, angry #*$(#s – after all, something about this situation has caused a perfectly normal person to act this way. Some mediators speak of building metaphysical connections between all the participants through their heart chakras. There’s a wide variation in how each person conceptualizes it, but it really does make a difference. You can feel it in the room and in how people respond to the mediators and each other.
I found this excerpt from a book with the same title as this blog entry, written by Daniel Bowling and David Hoffman, about the personal qualities of the mediator that impact the process of conflict resolution. This is about the nature of conflict and mediation itself:
Conflicts, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, honesty and deceit, passion and surrender, all of which lie beneath the surface and are revealed through a mediator’s questions. Our willingness to answer these same questions ourselves gives us permission to search for the piercing, pivotal, dangerous moments that can change people’s lives, and the courage to seek them out, even in our own lives.
We are privileged observers, intrepid explorers, and in some cases skillful navigators, of the tides and currents, forces and fields, twists and turns that intersect, overflow, and silently meander through the conflicts we mediate. We are better able to hear and help others navigate these tides and currents if we are able to hear and help ourselves.
Just a few thoughts to ponder on this Saturday morning.