I’m not immune to reading or even providing tips. But, if like me, you listen to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, you’ll know that despite the many years their racing correspondent has been providing them, they are rarely winners. Tips are shorthand for “Listen to me. I’ve got something really remarkable to share and it’s in your interests to listen”. They make interesting reading but are no substitute for knowledge and experience.
When it comes to mediating online, reading a few tips and watching a few webinars is no real preparation for the technological and skills divide between working with people who are in the same room and working with them over a webcam. There’s a lot to understand about safeguarding, hardware, software, tools, equipment, environment, body language, eye contact, the agreement to mediate, security, privacy, dos and don’ts and how to include other participants. And that’s just for starters. Knowing this stuff is important.
Knowing this stuff and being comfortable with the process is the difference between appearing confident and appearing anxious. When meeting participants at their MIAMs, and during our sessions, we want our clients to have confidence in us. The next step up from appearing confident is being confident and that will come with experience.
Remember your first mediation enquiry? You’d successfully completed your training and now you were being asked by two complete strangers about the process, praying that they weren’t going to ask you how many cases you’d mediated. But if they had, you’d have dealt with it in a way that wouldn’t undermine their confidence in you, I’m sure. You probably wouldn’t have told them you’d not mediated with paying clients before and you most certainly wouldn’t have told them that you were nervous. You need to think in the same way when approaching online mediation. Your confidence will rub off on your clients. If not, your reputation could suffer.
Gain your confidence through practising with one or two other mediators or colleagues, not through trying things out on your clients. After all, you wouldn’t want to take a flight in an aircraft flown for the first time by a pilot who had not trained in a simulator for many hours before they took the controls, would you?