This article deals with the challenges of creating a training session in mediation and conflict management that is effective and easy for participants to grasp. In my view, trainers should value the individual contexts each student or trainee brings to the table and tailor the training along those truths, using what I refer to as “mindful mediation” as a guideline.
When we talk about training in mediation and conflict management, we generally find two different types of educational programs: short-term sessions with a very limited time capacity, and long-term studies that cover a wide range of topics and demonstrate greater analytical depth. Trainees or students may ask themselves what these two concepts have in common, and which offers them the educational impact they are looking for. As this is a personal reflection, I am not going to judge or to put a value on either concept but will simply explain what has worked for me in the hopes that it makes sense to you.
Through reviewing outside training contents, discussing with trainees their expectations, and witnessing countless attempts to practice our art, it was easy for me to identify one very dominant and resistant issue that most practitioners face: the overwhelming challenge of implementing theoretical concepts, models, and structures to the actual practice of mediation. When I personally faced this challenge for the first time, I immediately started to work on the foundation of what I have come to call “mindful mediation.”
One valuable takeaway is that trainees and practitioners may not need an extensively broad set of tools, but should identify and concentrate on the development of social core competencies—ones that we all practice on a daily basis, but more often outside of the professional scope. Focusing on such competencies, trainees and practitioners learn that we naturally possess and unconsciously use effective skills that simply need to be identified and further developed for work in peacebuilding.
What was needed in the past and continues to be highly relevant in the present is to keep and communicate an open-minded and practice-oriented understanding of mediation, without putting this term (mediation) into an immutable frame or promising any particular outcome. Putting such a concept into practice requires mastering several challenges. The trainee needs to re-discover and re-develop self-confidence and the understanding that the key to change is to make use of one’s own life experiences in order to create an authentic practitioner’s personality and to have the desired positive impact on the environment.
We must support the development of fresh-minded and clear-thinking peacemakers who are longing to initiate positive changes in society. We should avoid releasing people from trainings whose minds we have jam-packed with information but who are afraid of making mistakes and unsure of how to practice what they have learned.
When it comes to the training sessions, the trainer should understand that it is not about content quantity, but rather about learning to work with the life stories, expertise, visions, and capacities of the trainees. While it is quite difficult to plan such a training, the true expertise of a trainer is indicated by her/his ability to couch her/his ego and to align themselves with the specific trainees’ competencies and work towards their needs.
I believe it is a great gift to understand what the trainees have to offer, to explain to them a few easy-to-grasp topics that fit their personalities and life stories and help mold them into authentic and unique practitioners who are able to put their own personal discoveries from such a training or development process into practice.
We should focus on keeping the training simple and transparent, as the conflict to work on will be complicated enough. “Mindful mediation” is based on the social core competencies of deep listening, critical thinking, and wise speaking.