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The crane is associated with peace, long life, patience and commitment. It also symbolizes lasting relationships because it devotes itself to one partner for life and both cranes build the nest and care for their young.
In Japan, tradition holds that anyone with the commitment and patience to fold 1,000 paper cranes will be granted their most desired wish. In the 1950s the idea gained worldwide fame from the story of Sadako Sasaki, who was two when the atomic bomb exploded one mile from her home in Hiroshima. Sadako later developed leukemia from exposure to radiation and was inspired by the legend to fold 1,000 cranes and see her wish for world peace granted. When Sadako died at age 12, she was buried with 1,000 cranes and, to this day, folded white origami cranes are placed at memorials as symbols of peace. A statue of Sadako holding a golden crane now stands at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, crafted with funds gathered by Sadako’s friends and classmates in memory of all the children who died. The plaque reads, This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world.
I began mediating when I was a dean of students and faculty member at a women’s college, as a necessary part of my work. I’d earned an undergrad degree in world literature (Middlebury College) and master’s and doctoral degrees in higher ed leadership (The University of Vermont). My dissertation work focused on behavior change.
As I started to get more requests for help from other sectors of the campus and the president, then from other institutions, I realized I had a knack for conflict resolution and decided to take a course in mediation. That basic mediation course ultimately led to me resigning what was by then a vice presidency, enrolling full-time in a year-long, 500-hour post-bac certificate in mediation and conflict management, and using that year also to begin building my private practice.
I launched my full-time private practice in 1997 and later became a core faculty member and curriculum designer in Woodbury College’s nationally recognized graduate program in Mediation and Applied Conflict Studies, now housed at Champlain College. I still occasionally guest teach on mediation, negotiation, conflict resolution and mediation marketing at the graduate level.
Yes. How do I know this globally, without knowing your particular background? Because I’ve trained thousands of mediators at the basic, advanced and master’s level and I’ve seen terrific mediators who started professional life as horse trainers, realtors, anesthesiologists, builders, teachers, and moms. I’ve seen terrific mediators whose profession of origin was counselor and attorney; I’ve seen some truly awful mediators who hail from those professions, too.
While the flooding of attorneys into the mediation field is signaling to the public that the most acceptable background for a mediator is a legal degree, it’s most certainly not the case. It’s not about what you did before and in some cases, what you did before will blind you to what you don’t know or don’t do well yet.
Sometimes co-workers, family and friends will wake you to your potential skill as conflict resolutionary. I think the best way is to take a basic mediation course, particularly the kind I describe elsewhere on this page, and then ask your instructor for honest feedback. If you’re taking a course from a credible instructor, and not one whose primary drive is to get you to enroll in more trainings, then this will be helpful, objective feedback. If you’ve got good potential, happy day! If you stink at it, yes, that’ll be painful to hear, but less painful than investing thousands of dollars and years of your life only to find out later that others aren’t captivated by your skill. Mediators, like people in other fields, come in all temperaments and with myriad different talents.
Get really good training. Skip the trainers that primarily teach via lecture and demo — mediation isn’t a spectator sport. When you see a good mediator at work it looks simple. That’s because we’re good. It’s an entirely different story to have something useful come out of your own mouth in the heat of the moment. Choose trainers who have been and remain successful practitioners, and who teach with roleplays and real engagement. If you have to travel a bit to get better training, go as far as you need to and your wallet will allow. Poorly prepared mediators drag the entire field down.
Get more than 40 hours. A lot more. I’m unapologetic in my belief that really good mediators need more than a workweek of instruction. I’ve taught and trained mediators from every imaginable background for nearly 20 years and few can mediate their way out of a cardboard box in 40 hours or less. That includes you, too, attorneys. We don’t call it basic mediation for nothing.
Stop relying on panels and rosters to build a practice. I wrote a lot more about this in my book, so I’ll leave it this way here: Rosters pay pathetically and don’t have nearly the number of cases needed to sustain all the mediators who want a piece of the pie. Rosters are a lazy marketer’s crutch (gee, I must have been in a particularly snarky mood when I wrote this section).
Start thinking of yourself as a businessperson as well as a mediator. You’ll need to be both to make a living at it unless you’re a trust fund baby.
Look for under-served markets and places where there’s demand for people with good human relations, conflict engagement and problem-solving skills. Stop selling a single process and start unbundling and rebundling your skills in new ways. I say much more about this in my mediation business book, too.
Before you sign up for training, read my Candid Guide to Getting Great Mediation Training.
I’m a fan of Champlain College’s basic mediation course. The faculty are of the highest caliber and their basic is as good as you can get anywhere in the world.
What about other mediation trainers? I choose not to comment on trainings when I’ve not had direct experience or observation. So if they’re not listed here, I won’t be able to help you on that. Use my guide, referenced just above, to help you make a good choice for yourself.
Here’s a post I wrote on mediator certification. I was feeling particularly New York blunt that day.
No. For the reasons why and what I recommend instead, please see the Candid Guide referenced earlier.