Today we started our mediation training, which is going to be a three day crash course in how to professionally mediate conflict and resolve disputes. Annoyingly enough, when they changed the venue for the training, they forgot to confirm the change in time as well, so we all got up early to get there at 8am, only to sit around for an hour waiting for the mediation trainers to arrive. Fortunately, their schedule is less flexible than ours, so we don’t have to be there until 9 the next two days. Sweet!
Also, where is it written that trainings must either take place outside in the blazing sun or (as in this case) inside in refrigerated classrooms where the AC is single-handedly trying to stop global warming in its tracks? Even with my fleece hoodie on and socks with my summer shoes, I was freezing.
And can I take this opportunity to say that any training that lasts longer than an hour should automatically take place in cushioned chairs, preferably overstuffed lounge furniture. I feel like I spent the day being paddled in a walk-in freezer.
Anyway, today we got an overview of what mediation is (and what it isn’t). Basically, it’s a third-party-facilitated, non-binding conversation in which the disputants are led through a process to air their grievances and come up with their own workable solution rather than being adjudged and having a legally-binding decision handed to them.
By the end of the day, we had gotten through practicums of stages 1 and 2 of the mediation process – the introduction, where we get everything started by getting to know the disputants and laying out the basics of mediation and setting down ground rules, and the description of events, which is where each party gets a chance to tell their version of what happened to land them in mediation, facilitated and coached by the mediators.
The hardest part is knowing that as a mediator, I cannot make suggestions. Even if I see a way out that neither party sees, I can’t suggest it. Which is infuriatingly frustrating, because I know that if I were in mediation and there was a better answer than I or my co-disputant were capable of coming up with, I’d want to know it. But that’s the way it is. I understand the concept – you don’t want mediators “bullying” an outcome or meddling or otherwise taking the process out of the hands of the disputants. But still, it’s a hard one for me, given my coaching background, which is all about working with the client in a collaborative setting where suggestions based on my experience, knowledge and training are the point.
We did some role playing to practice our skills and I got first-hand confirmation that you couldn’t pay me enough to be a teen-ager again. I can really sink into roles in these settings, and in one session I was playing a teenage girl in mediation with a friend who takes and uses her books without asking (which, in the scenario, escalated into a bigger confrontation that got them sent to the Principal’s office).
Dude, I was pissed, hurt, distant, moody, angry for being used and taken for granted but too caught up in my anger to articulate it – all the stuff a teenager would be in that setting – and although I spent maybe 15 minutes in that role (knowing it was a role and coming out of it repeatedly for feedback from our coach) it was enough to remind me of just how screamingly craptacular being a teenager is. I marvel that I spent a decade or so feeling like that and came through without diagnosable brain damage. Or murdering someone.
Tomorrow we’ll get started on brainstorming ideas and creating a workable solution. I’m not sure if we’ll be receiving some sort of official designation after this or not, but it’s pretty intense stuff so I wouldn’t be surprised.