One of the most treasured times in my professional ADR life were the months spent with my three core faculty colleagues, planning the curriculum for what would become Woodbury’s master’s degree in mediation. We’d all been teaching in the undergraduate mediation certificate program for some time, but since all of the faculty are full-time practitioners in our field and not full-time academics, our paths didn’t consistently cross in person. It was a treat, then, to work together for an extended period.
There we sat, in Alice’s stunningly beautiful and graceful rural home, coffee and tea cups in hand, musing and creating together. Laughing together. Arguing together. Problem-solving together. It’s a treasured thing to create a new program from scratch, from all that came before it and yet with the freedom to adopt or toss what we wished. It’s an even more treasured thing to have done it with people I cherish.
We were clear on one thing from the very start: Learning to be an effective mediator is improved upon by an integrated learning experience that leads to practicing in an integrated way. We called it our 4-legged stool – even one leg missing leaves a wobbly mediator:
Leg 1: Skills. The artful use of the mediator’s toolbox. Learning mediator skills means developing general capacities to perform as a mediator and the practical ability to apply theoretical knowledge and process knowledge to particular situations.
Leg 2: Structure. A way of navigating and organizing information during a mediation. Learning about structure means, in part, understanding the ways that structures can be adapted to serve different contexts.
Leg 3: Theory. A foundation for understanding and engaging conflict. Learning about theory means gaining knowledge of the conceptual basis of practice; theoretical foundations of the mediators’ work, both from the ADR field and other disciplines; and the connection between theory and practice.
Leg 4: Self. Bringing self-awareness to the mediation table and using self as instrument. Building and working from self-awareness means developing a deep self knowledge, including mediators’ knowledge of own presence or way of being at the table; awareness of our deepest beliefs about conflict and its resolution and how those influence our choice of word and action; consciousness of the ways we influence the unfolding of events during the mediation; and attentiveness to the intuitive signals we’re experiencing.
What do you think about these legs? Where are you the strongest?