End of Course Summary This course has been a journey of enlightenment! The materials I have covered in this course will remain a lifelong treasure for not only me but my family, my community, my country and the world at large. It is difficult to summarize a five module course in one page especially when the course is profound and not just conventional. However, I will try to mention in this post some of the topics that have not only transform me but will remain impressed on my mind for the rest of my personal and professional life. Hopefully this short expose will epitomize what I have learned over the last few weeks. MINDFULNESS \"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.\" Buddha I want to start with Mindfulness. Mindfulness has helped me create a new relationship with my mind. So what exactly is Mindfulness and how has it impacted me? Mindfulness is the act of consciously focusing your mind in the present moment without judgment and without attachment to the moment. Mindfulness helps us become more aware of what is going on for us internally and externally. With Mindfulness we become present to the “right now”. The practice of Mindfulness has helped me increase my ability to regulate my emotions, decrease stress and my anxiety levels. It helps me to focus my attention, observe my thoughts and feelings without judgement. As a result of this, I am more present in my life and in relations to others and as such make better decision, manage my emotions and experiencing a fully engaged life. In short I am now paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and have acquire a non-judgmental awareness of whatever passes through my five conventional senses and mind. Mindfulness and the Mediation \"Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.\" Sonia Roccoti This mental state is very important in Mediation. It is a value not only in the personal development of Mediators but it enhances performance (reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action). Mindfulness has also enhanced my awareness, particularly my emotional responses and how these have influenced my rational thought and behavior. With increased awareness has come self-mastery, a keystone to emotional intelligence. Mindfulness cannot be considered as some sort of ‘bolt-on’ or technique. We have first to understand who we as mediators and to know what truly motivates and inspires us. Combined with the will to do better, this is what separates those mediators who aspire to artistry, from the rest. This course has managed to teach me the real essence of Mindfulness in Mediation; embracing what is now, letting go of what was, and having faith in the future. Improved Communication Skills – Mediation “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. ” — George Bernard Shaw The course has also taught me key communications skills which I believe will serve me well in my professional life as a Mediator. It is common knowledge that Mediators are the custodians of the communication flow. They need to pay close attention to communication, both their own communication skills and the communication dynamics of the participants. They should strive to model clear communication that supports collaborative action, and be very aware of the challenge Shaw describes in the quote above. They should also be aware that to manage the conversation in a manner that maintains focus and supports resolution is a skill that matures over time. This course has taught me empathic listening which is a core skill in Mediation. In addition, I have learnt the advanced listening skill of reframing which is vital to Mediation. Mediators need to constantly reframe what they hear in order to discharge unnecessary negativity and personal attacks and thereby enable the conflict to be worked on productively. This is one of the most active ways in which they engage in the conflict. Mediators also need to ask a lot of questions, not to satisfy their curiosity but to support the conflict-resolution process. And when they need to assert themselves or be persuasive, mediators are tactful communicators. Empathic listening “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” Ralph Nichols Empathic (or reflective) listening is central to the work of the media- tor. As an intervention tool, it is second to none for its ability to build trust and confidence. It enables mediators to demonstrate that they grasp what is going on and understand the participants’ perspective – their needs, thoughts and feelings. Reframing “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” — Abraham Lincoln Reframing is a tool we use to change the view of something. It recognizes that the frame we place to make sense of an event; situation or relationship is not neutral. The decision as to which frame to place therefore involves a conscious choice. A reframe from a negative to a positive perception removes the sting. In the context of conflict resolution, the primary reframe is from conflict as a problem to conflict as an opportunity. Asking questions “Problems that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way.” — Alan Watts Mediators need to ask a lot of questions. But they should not interrogate, humiliate and embarrass the participants. There should be a reason for every question, one that supports the mediation process. The course has helped me to increase my ability to ask the right questions at the right time to discover information that will help me understand accurately the needs, beliefs or feelings of disputants. Assertion: ‘I’ statements, and saying ‘no’ “A ‘no’ uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.” — Mahatma Gandhi One of the challenges of Mediation is the ability of the Mediator to assert himself and his boundaries. At times, you may need to let either or both of the participants know how their behavior has impacted you, and to request a change. The current high point in the development of our communication technology for giving feedback is what is called the ‘I’ statement. Mediators ought to use them, and also encourage participants to use them. ‘I’ statements are different from ‘you’ statements in that the latter shut down communication. They are therefore ineffective communicators of what people really need, or want changed. They are also blaming and make people defensive. This is an important skill for Mediators as well. Managing flow “The quality of the imagination is to flow and not to freeze.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson Mediators exercise much of their influence through the way they manage the flow of communication. Some mediators are more structured and controlling, while others believe you should follow, not lead. This is where your intuitive sensitivity and imagination come into play. You are aware of a variety of qualities that could describe the communication dynamics in a mediation. Like a river, sometimes things appear to flow smoothly and you hardly need to say a word. At other times, things are languid and everything feels heavy and difficult, or the nervousness/excitement is palpable, like water splashing over rocks. Be comfortable with it all, and be ready to intervene and shift the dynamics if and when you need to. This means that you need to be able to both let go and take control. Remember, your role is to support the participants to resolve their conflict. Managing Mediation takes a lot of energy, perseverance but most importantly understanding the disputants. Keys to this challenge are patience and being comfortable with silence. Conclusion: Mindfulness The greatest characteristic or skill you can possess for conflict resolution is mindfulness. Evidence suggests that learning to pay attention may be the most important skill we will ever learn. Mindfulness is a mental discipline involving training attention. However, mindfulness is more than learning to pay attention – it also implies cultivating an attitude of openness, interest and acceptance. Great communication skills Listening and talking. The root cause of many disputes is a lack of communication leading to judgments and assumptions about the motives of others. Failure to communicate effectively is a fundamental barrier to effective negotiation. Building connections with people is a difficult but necessary part of having better conversations. This is often referred to as “establishing rapport”, but that term may suggest an element of artificiality that is not present when there is genuine connection. In addition to these two skills, a Mediator needs to develop the ability (cognitive skills) to think clearly under pressure when dealing with uncertainty. Parties need assistance with cool cognition versus hot emotions and impulses. Psychologists characterize willpower or self control in part as the ability to employ a cool cognitive system of behavior, rather than a hot emotional system. Our cool system is essentially a thinking system incorporating knowledge about sensations, feelings, actions and goals. While the cool system is reflective, the hot system is impulsive and emotional. This course in Mindful Mediation has really helped me to develop these skills. I am not complete but Mediation is not a destination; it is a goal and with more training and practice I will enrich these skills in the future.