Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mediation Training

I attended an intensive mediation training program over the weekend (32 hours of training in 4 days!). It was an amazing experience. I know that mediation is hard work. I also knew that this training would involve role playing and other experiential exercises. So I was terrified, to be honest. Half of my fear was that I would find it overwhelming. The other half of my fear was that I would find the training disappointing in some way. But it turned out that it went way above and beyond even my most hopeful expectations.

I found the training to be an excellent blend of explaining and discussion followed by well-designed exercises that did help us integrate what we had learned. The exercises were followed by excellent personalized feedback and high-quality large-group debriefing. Not only did I learn a lot about mediation, I also learned a lot about teaching.

The most liberating part of the training was learning that it is not our job to calm people down or get them to "play nice." Instead, as mediators, we ride their energy. We let them use their own language. We let them have their own emotions. We don't try to control any of this. We don't judge. We just listen to understand, and in trying to understand, we calmly re-frame the loaded language into unloaded language until everyone naturally becomes calmer and more focused and ready to start thinking more creatively about the issues.

There's a lot more to be said than this, but this piece in particular was powerful for me, because I am on a journey of learning not to be so afraid of conflict and strong emotion. It is amazingly empowering to learn (experientially) that when we meet conflict and strong emotion with a compassionate desire to understand what it means and where it comes from, we participate in transforming this energy into something more positive and productive.

Anyone who is serious about peacemaking should go through a training like this.

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