Sharpen those Tools!

Sharpen Those Tools
We all, or most of us, know that the three tips to being successful in negotiation is prepare, prepare, prepare. Right?

The same applies to mediators. Sure, we don't make the agreement, give opinions, or make decisions, but our preparation is extremely important in adding to the potential of the mediation being a success.

For mediators, that handle cases in community centers and court, that is not always practical. Usually you have at most, a New York minute to look over the file case as you walk over to greet the parties.

Take that a step further, for law enforcement officers who take on the role of negotiator and/or mediator, not only is the 'case' thrown on you, the issue of time ticking preciously and quickly plays a pivotal role in affecting the situation.

So, basically I said so far 1) you need to prepare 2) it is tough for community center and court based mediators and 3) even tougher for law enforcement personnel.

Whats to be done?

The analogy I use often is with sports. I am an avid fan of many sports, particularly football (soccer here in the States) and cricket. Manchester United Football club is arguably the best in the world. In cricket, Australia are arguably the best in the world (don't mention the last Test and One Day series!).

How do these teams stay so good? What happens after a successful season? Do they not prepare for the next one because they did so good? No, of course not... (and finally here comes my point, six paragraphs in) it is practice. Practice, as the cliche says, is what makes perfect. In my mind there is never a 'perfect' performance, but by practicing, you help sharpen those tools in your box as well as accumulate new ones.

Think about- a penalty kick, shouting and stubborn people, one run shy of a double century, and a near riot situation all have something in common. In order to get through it successfully, you resort to your practices. It's what you learned over and over in practice that now becomes 'clockwork' for you. Seriously, there is no difference in those above examples.
no , I am not saying that trying to literally do shuttle diplomacy between police chiefs and protest leaders as things are about to burst at the seems is the same as a community center mediation involving neighbors over a noise. What I am saying is that core practices and skills can be used in any setting, regardless of what it is. It is our practice that prepares us for those different situations.
It does not matter if you are the seasoned veteran or rookie, or in the pro league in recreational competition. The core concept of training and practice is paramount to continue your success in mediation (or football).

What do I do to continue my practice? One contribution to my toolbox is reading many books.
There are many out there and are worth the few dollars in cost. Ever better, search the Internet and see many for free. [shameless plug] If you don't have the time, visit this blog for information and links to tips too! There is a wealth of information for free on the Internet.
How esle can you continue your practice? Go to trainings. Depending on where you live, you might have to travel a bit. Look around, there are some good teachers out there. Some trainings are not even that expensive. You will also find that scholarships and discounts for those with hardships are available.
I also find very valuable to debrief with others. Be it a co-worker or even the student observing my mediation, feedback is crucial for me to learn. The same situations viewed and experienced through different eyes always results in different opinions.
Don't forget feedback forms too. Hey, we all think a mediation went good, but it can't hurt to ask a person to fill one out. Although they are short, and not in depth, lessons can still be learned.
Finally, there are many groups and listserves out there. This helps you speak with peers, and works great especially if you are in more remote areas.
The tools in a mediator's toolbox are only as good as the care the mediator puts into making sure they are sharp and used correctly. Practice can help.


  1. Jeff, if you are ever over in the UK give me a shout. I'll take you to Old Trafford the football stadium or Old Trafford the cricket stadium. However to watch cricket in Manchester you have to pick one of the three days in the year when it doesn't rain.

  2. thanks Phil,

    I am actually trying to make it over there this summer for the Ashes or ODI's but not looking good at the moment.


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