A guest blog by Martha Clarke
Paris, February 2016
Eating, drinking, talking, listening and breathing the same air as hundreds of mediators from all around the world is quite an experience. As a judge at the International Chambers of Commerce International Mediation competition in Paris I noticed not just how enthusiastic they all are about the profession but also what reasonable people they are! This made me start thinking, do people become mediators because they are always seeking a win/win in life? Or does working as a mediator make this happen? hummmm…mmmm over to you.
Being a judge at the competition, you can never get too many tips on giving and indeed receiving good feedback, and my introduction to being a judge at the International started with a session on feedback. My role at the competition was not just about judging but is also about helping the hundreds of university students who come from all over the globe to become the best mediators they can be.
Sixty-six teams from over 40 countries took part in the mediation marathon this year so it’s important that the judges get it right.
The discussion ranged from cultural differences to language barriers, from premature problem solving to the inevitable “how often should you intervene”? To this I’m afraid there is no right answer – each mediation is unique. Knowing “when to go in” and when to “hold the silence” is the difference between a good mediator and a great one. Something you can’t really teach – and we all get it wrong sometimes; for me it’s just about listening, being in the moment, right in there with the parties, and then going with my instinct as much as my logic.
One tip I have brought home is Freud’s observation: “when A speaks about B you learn more about A than B”.
Another thing I noticed was that the students taking part in the competition are already well on their way to being top class in the field. The standard of the mock mediations by young people from Brazil, USA, France, and Ukraine I judged was phenomenal. I saw active listening, rapport building, summarising and problem solving which resolved conflicts that the most seasoned mediators struggle with. I even overheard a conversation about how different we (professional mediators) were at that age, lacking the polish and confidence this new cohort have.
The final saw teams from the Antipodes battle it out for the prize and after six days and 147 rigorous mock mediations the University of New South Wales triumphed. Auckland University were the valiant runners up and but all of the students who took part can be very proud of their achievements.
Vive les médiateurs!