What does reflection look like for a mediator and why do it?
Thoughtful reflection is not the act of ruminating on or second-guessing your decisions in a particular exchange or mediation session. Instead, reflection involves stepping back from your experience in the mediation, trying to be objective, and seeing what you can take away from it. It may feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable at first. However, you will discover ways you can do better in your next mediation by examining what did or didn’t work in this one, and by discovering the assumptions or habits underlying your choices.
There is no one way to reflect on one’s mediation practice. You have to find what works best for you, but here are a few tactics we have found useful:
- Journaling: Writing about your mediation experience can be a great way to capture some of the challenges and successes happening in the mediation room. You don’t have to capture every single turn of the mediation. And this isn’t for sharing with anyone else, so don’t worry about how well it’s written. You can start by simply giving yourself a dedicated 10-15 minutes to write down your impressions of the mediation. (Set a timer if it helps!) Where did the parties start? Where did they end up? What worked/got the parties moving in a productive direction? What didn’t? What would you do differently next time?
- Reflective Practice Group: Reflective practice groups, like the one CCR hosts, are a great way to get started thinking differently about your mediation practices. Hey, “reflective” is right in the title of the group! For more in depth discussion of CCR’s RPG, read this blog post. RPG is a space to non-judgmentally explore the assumptions and motivations that underlie our choices and tactics. In other words, you get to talk with other mediators about the practice and theory of mediation.
- Debriefs & Case Management: CCR’s mediators have the advantage of debriefing with Case Management after every mediation. This is an excellent opportunity to have an in-depth discussion with an experienced mediator about what did or didn’t work. There may be times when this debrief is too short. Or sometimes a little distance from the mediation uncovers thoughts or feelings you didn’t initially have. Case Management is always available to talk about specific cases or issues that you’re repeatedly encountering in your mediations. Take advantage of this excellent resource!
- Co-Mediation: Co-mediation can be an invaluable reflective practice tool, especially for solo practitioners. By co-mediating a case, you get to see how others perform their role as mediator. It’s also beneficial to the mediation itself because your co-mediator may pick up on things that you don’t, and vice versa. By playing to each other’s strengths, you may be more effective for the parties.
Whatever tool or tools you use to reflect on your mediation practice, doing so can help you to be more mindful and deliberate about your choices when you’re in the room with the parties. Remember, the parties ultimately control the outcome, but you control the process. The more you reflect on that process, the better you’ll be as a mediator.