Mediation update

September 25, 2009

Well, I’ve been neglecting this blog a bit recently. I just moved so my attention has been elsewhere. In the midst of buying a house and moving, however, I have also been getting started as a volunteer mediator, so I thought I’d give an update on how that’s going.

In August I did two mediations and had two very different experiences. The first was quite a shock, as my co-mediator did not really follow the process I had learned in training. I was letting him lead and pretty much ended up not saying much at all, since his technique was to sit back and let the two parties talk it out directly with each other. It felt to me that he jumped straight to the “generating options” part of the mediation process, skipping over the earlier (and I think important) parts where each party tells their perspective, the mediator reflects back what they said, and then the parties explore each issue in depth. Although the parties did reach an agreement, I felt that neither side was particularly happy with the result, and both felt that they were compromising rather than having all their needs met.

I learned from this experience that I need to have more confidence in myself and my skills. I eagerly jumped at a subsequent opportunity to mediate a very different sort of case. This one went much better from my perspective, even though it was actually less successful in terms of the parties reaching an agreement. I felt that my co-mediator and I worked well together, and I was able to use some actual skills to help direct things along, such as reframing and bringing the focus back to the key issues. It was an extremely complex case, however, so the parties only reached a partial agreement and I had my doubts as to how well they would stick to it. Both experiences have only served to make me eager to continue mediating!

Both of those mediations were with the Longmont Community Mediation program (a city northeast of me). The program does not get a huge number of mediations, and they have a pretty loose structure. Just this past week, I attended a volunteer orientation for the Jefferson County Mediation program, located in Golden, a city south of Boulder. This program is huge and expects to have 1700 cases in 2009. They also provide quite a bit more structure for their volunteers. Although it is not as convenient to get down to Golden, I feel that volunteering with them will provide me with more opportunities to grow. My hope is that between the two programs I should be able to get enough mediation opportunities on Fridays (my day off) or weekends, so that I don’t have to stress myself out by doing it in the evening (I have several other evening commitments, anyway).

It is exciting to me to see what real cases are like in mediation, and I am looking forward to continuing on this path!