Musings of a Mediator – 1
With each passing day, I am persuaded that mediators are born, not made. All the professional training, certifications, accreditations simply serve to precipitate innate qualities, the seeds of which were already sown through the mediator’s various life experiences. The person is already predisposed to mediation skills by his nature, by the totality of his life’s experiences, by the values he has gained. My own experience, and conversations with other mediators, have strengthened this conviction.
For example, in my younger days, my mother would always insist that there was nothing between my siblings and me, which we could not resolve or settle amicably, with power carefully balanced between the elder and the younger, to ensure fairness. She taught us never to think of winning or losing but more of sustaining the important bond of family; that you should never just want to lose or win; but that the real victory was the sustenance of the family tie of love and the spirit of forgiveness, and not so much any kind of vindication. Preservation of family cordiality, in love, was paramount. It was an overarching value. Furthermore, she taught me to listen, to feel for the other person and not necessarily to form my own opinion. Little did I realize that all these and more, were laying an important foundation for my present vocation.
Now, do not get me wrong. Even the most prodigious child pianist still goes on to a conservatoire, still has piano teachers; even athletic prodigies still engage coaches and endure training. So even though one has been predisposed to the basics and essentials of mediation skills, you still need to train; you still need to hone those skills; you still need to precipitate them. For it is this further training that brings out the fruit of the vital seeds, which had been sown through the totality of experiences in those formative years. I must say, ‘thank you’ to Mediator Vikram Singh, my recent conversations with whom on his “Journey of a Mediator” series, helped much to evoke these reminiscences.
The foregoing serves to reinforce my convictions that mediation is much more than a process, whether of dispute or conflict resolution, or otherwise. It is a culture; a lifestyle; an attitude; the totality of one’s personality. Reminds me of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Holy Scriptures, thus: “Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for them who spitefully use you and persecute you.” The essence of this admonition is to teach that a combative attitude only creates adversaries, whereas love provides an avenue for reconciliation and peace.
It leads to a richer, and more sustainable experience. And that is the focus of mediation. I daresay that this mindset can even be applied to the processes of litigation
and arbitration; being adversarial should not necessarily be cast in concrete.
Musings of a Mediator – 2
Recently, a leading UK HR expert, Yetunde Y. Hofmann, published a book titled “Beyond Engagement.” In this book, she espouses the value of love-based leadership in organizations. Our present obsession with love as mush, – thank you, Valentines – has lost its more important value as an essential base for relationships. Thankfully, many more people than before are beginning to understand the benefit of a love approach to leadership. That leadership is not just about numbers and the bottom-line. That since I am dealing with real people, not mere numbers, then I must spend time to consider the values of love and relationship and, not just obsess with data and calculations.
So, let us welcome back the old culture where companies regarded themselves as family, where MD’s and CEOs valued being invited to the home of their employee for lunch or for dinner with his family, where people learned to care for one another, where it was not just about profit or money. It was about the things that mattered to all of us, not just me and mine. Sounds like the motive for active listening and empathy, vital elements of good mediation? I’d say!
Empathy is easier to have, when driven by love and caring. When present, they better enable me to feel for the other person, facilitates him or her opening their heart to me, and makes them feel sufficiently safe to be vulnerable. Love-driven empathy – I will call its opposite, clinical empathy – enables me to understand the things that really matter to them and are driving them. This positions the mediator to assist both parties to explore options for resolving their conflict or dispute, better and more successfully. They also even begin to be inclined to similar love. And the result? We are more likely come to a mutually acceptable solution.
Like in all things that concern love, there is sacrifice and sometimes there is concession. Letting go is easier and now, it no longer matters who wins or loses, it means that I cherish my brother, or my sister, or my colleagues, and our relationship more than anything else. With this attitude, the environment of that workplace will become more congenial, with consequential positive impact on profitability. People will tell you that they work better in organizations which treated them not as just workers, but where they had a sense of being family. They were not prone to taking off sprees and they are less inclined to steal. They wanted to give their best and they felt a sense, not just of belonging, but of ownership.
This is the heart of the mediation culture.