27 Sep 2017
The Quest to Become a Mediator
By Jo Cavell, CEDR Mediator
Have you ever thought about becoming a mediator or would value acquiring the skills set of one? Are you tempted by the potential income? Maybe you are disenchanted with other methods of dispute resolution? Are you looking for self-fulfilment? Want to be a peacemaker and reconciler? Perhaps just seeing the process from another point of view? Whatever your initial reasons for selecting a training course to become a commercial mediator these are very likely to evolve into something very different providing you with lifelong business skills (and personal – it certainly enhanced my negotiation and parental skills!).
A cautionary note
There are many reasons why you would want to train and pursue a career as a mediator. The financial benefits and the added skill set are great reasons why people have been training as mediators with CEDR for the past 27 years. However, once an accredited mediator your journey may take a path you may not have expected.
Commercial mediation is still a relatively new profession in the UK and, despite growth over the past few years in the number of mediations being conducted (10,000 in 2016 according to CEDR’s Biennial Mediation Audit), case numbers are still relatively small. Established mediators may only mediate three or four cases a month, with 56% of mediators reporting that they undertake less than ten mediations a year and only 40% characterising themselves as “full-time” mediators. For the majority of mediators,
commercial mediation remains a part-time job with a vast number of mediators having a ‘day job’ or mediating as part of a portfolio career.
With only a small proportion of mediators getting anywhere near a full time career, and the supply of qualified and willing mediators outweighing the demand for mediation services, it poses the question – why do individuals willingly put themselves through a gruelling five-day training course to get the coveted CEDR Accreditation but with no guarantee of a successful mediation career?
For the 80 per cent of mediators surveyed claiming to do some mediation work every year the answer for them is clear. For those not wishing necessarily to have a mediation career, there are no definitive answers to this question.
Skills to handle conflict
Other clues can probably be found in the actual content of CEDR’s Mediator Skills course:
We are all creatures of emotion. We carry our experiences – hurts, pleasures, inadequacies, strengths, relationships, aspirations, joys, failures and fears – into the present and these or a combination of these emotions are often entangled in how we react on any given day to any given situation. Neutrality is unnatural to us. We all develop personal values, attitudes, beliefs and views conditioned by our life experiences.
How powerful then to learn how to work impartially with others so that you can recognise not only the sources and extent of your own values and how they may affect your reaction with other people but learning how to identify and work with emotions, and attitudes of others.
- Do you know how to frame a good question?
- Do you know how to really listen? And to communicate adequately that you have heard and understood?
- Can you stand back and allow someone to reach their own conclusions, albeit with your patient guidance?
- Trust is fragile – do you know how to treat it?
- When you reach a dead end in discussions, do you have the skills to reframe the same question or idea to enable the recipient to better understand or accepting
- Are you able to seek the help in exploring more ideas from the 'other side'?
- Can you reality test alternatives of not settling conflict without offending?
- Can you handle a situation when someone shows strong emotions?
No doubt many people can tick at least one of the above skills. But very few could claim to use these as a package of skills to enhance their day-to-day business or personal activities.
These represent the fundamental building blocks a mediator will call upon in any mediation where, as a third party neutral, they are there to assist parties in reaching a solution to any given issue.
It is this skill package that many delegates delight in having acquired. The following is representative of many feelings expressed by former delegates who roughly divide professionally into 50 per cent lawyers and 50 per cent industry managers:
"A surprising journey, unlocking unconscious skills – skills that were life-changing."
"The most effective learning experience – the most valuable self-development management training course I have been involved in ever – improving and impacting upon my own personal skills and making me aware of those I don’t have."
Mediation – the cure for a stalled negotiation
In effect, mediation is the remedy for a sick negotiation – inherently any situation that can be negotiated can be mediated. But perhaps the real power of mediation skills come when they are used as prevention and not just cure for any potential discord or disagreement whether this be in the office, in the home or on the street.
Mediation focuses on shifting emphasis from blame and rights based arguments towards current needs and interest based problem solving. This requires a forward looking strategy rather than raking over old disputed territory. Take a typical dispute scenario:
You enter into a deal. A dispute arises, you try to negotiate, lawyers are called in to negotiate but the dispute spirals into entrenchment and lawsuits. Even if you do manage to settle at the ninth hour as many litigious cases do you will almost certainly not have a future relationship with the other side in the future, you may well have lost business, it will certainly have cost a great deal in time energy and perhaps even personal kudos within your own organisation or team.
So many times when being referred disputes for mediation, the CEDR Client Advisers hear these words from either one, or quite often both, of the parties: "It should never have got to this point". If only someone within the organisation or team had had the skills to take an impartial view to assist those involved to focus on current and future commercial needs rather than on who is to blame for what has happened in the past.
Those who have trained to become mediators, regardless of their professional background or current roles acknowledge almost unanimously in the power of these skills to change their attitudes and approaches to conflict.
To find out more information about CEDR’s Mediator Skills Training please visit the website https://www.cedr.com/skills/mediation-training/ or call the Skills Team on +44(0) 20 7536 6000. This article is based on the CEDR Mediator Skill Handbook (the set textbook of the CEDR Mediator Skills Training).