The Importance Of Being Present

According to mediator, Catherine Davidson, “to be present is to be in the moment, in the zone […].” She was co-conducting a workshop titled ‘Mediator Presence’ with her colleague Greg Bond at the 2018 Consensual Dispute Resolution Competition (CDRC) in Vienna. The participants of the workshop, all competitors, were gathering examples of what ‘presence’ contributes to a mediation session. I had snuck in to report on their progress.

‘Presence’ they concluded, refers to a mediators awareness of the situation, the body language, the listening skills, but most importantly the authenticity of oneself during the session. Davidson agreed with the contestants as she explained “to be truly present you have to bring your true self”. It is safe to assume that this is often easier said than done. Many are not aware of the strengths they can bring to the mediation table and what weaknesses they are to overcome.

It’s a simple sounding exercise which the two facilitators proposed to overcome this problem: reflect on your strengths, how you demonstrate them and what they can do for you in your mediation. Pensively the participants got to work, contemplating how to be present as their own true self on a small card provided by the facilitators. Interested, I tried to do the same. In many ways it helped to reflect on how my perceived strengths affect my behaviour. For me, some of my strengths actually contribute to some of my more negative habits.

How to be a STAR

“Take this with you and work with your strengths this week as you mediate” Davidson offered the participants referring to the contemplation cards. Meanwhile, the two facilitators provided a framework to help with authentic presence during mediation: Situation, Task, Action, and Result, STAR for short. Identify the situation you are trying to address, what task you are aiming to accomplish, what action it may require in relation to yourself, and what result you are expecting, they explained.

This can be helpful in many situations the two facilitators demonstrated – say a caucus where the task at hand is to reach a conclusive decision, or a new contract and/or mandate. For the specific example of the competition’s caucuses which are limited to 10 minutes at a time, controlling the process may be your best action. Strictly timing the process may be essential in this regard.

From the workshop I gathered, that more generally speaking you can relate a preferred action back to your strengths. A process-oriented mediator may opt for exactly the above approach to lead the parties to focus on the task at hand. A mediator with other strengths, however, may approach the caucus from a different perspective. In any case, the result should be a successful caucus which enables forward movement.

In the end, to be one’s true self is to be true in your actions and reflect yourself in your work. As Bond puts it: “If you are feeling like there’s something wrong, there probably is […]“ address it, ask open-ended question and make sure everyone follows the conversation.

Written by Nicklas Boehm.

Nicklas is an intern at IMI and is attending the CDRC in Vienna as an IMI representative, providing daily coverage of the event.

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