I know there are lots of mediators at the moment who are really worried about mediating online over webcams. “It isn’t mediation”, It’s not what I signed up to do”, “I’m useless with technology”, “I’m worried about what might happen” and “I’m too old to try something new” are just some of the comments which have been made to me over the years I’ve been encouraging others to give it a go since I did my first online mediation in 2012.
As a mediator, I’d like to think I recognise avoidance. We all have a comfort zone and most mediators will like to stay well within theirs. Even the idea of two-hour sessions is verboten for many family mediators. “It’s not allowed”. Says who?
Confidence is the key
It’s as much to do with confidence as anything else. John Hind describes mediation as part art part science. I don’t know if he sees it this way, but perhaps the science is the bit about meeting length, the room set-up and the rules of conversation. In other words, what we learn during our foundation training. The art bit is how we apply our knowledge and skills. generally, that’s something we improve on year on year. But we can’t improve on the science, or at least that seems to be what many seem to think. And so there we have it: professionals who are fearful of (the) new science (of online mediation).
Like any other professionals, mediators benefit from being confident in their processes. It may be an externally displayed confidence whereas the reality is internal anxiety. But that’s fine. Remember your first ever mediation paid for by participants eager for help? I doubt you told them that it was your first ever paid for mediation and that you were as nervous as hell, and that things could well go wrong as you didn’t really know yet what you were doing (or was that just how I felt?). No, you simply hoped they weren’t going to ask how many mediations you’d conducted and what your success rate was like. Why? Because doing so might make them choose a more experienced mediator.
Don’t tell clients you’ve never mediated online before
So, even if you haven’t started a single online mediation, it’s really important that you don’t tell your clients, at least not in a way a way that makes them nervous. Your mediations may not even get off the ground, or may crash and burn if they do, if you are not confident in the process. That means having confidence in safeguarding, preparing your clients, the technology and hardware, the dos and don’ts, the lighting, the seating, the comfort, the webcam positioning, the audio and video quality, your protocols, the risks, all the ins and outs of the video platform you’re using and all the rest. Have confidence in what you are doing, and then you can focus more easily on what you do best: help people have a conversation.
My 3 top tips
So what about the 3 top tips. If that list doesn’t contain them, what are they? Simple, practice, practice, practice. Practicing through simulated online sessions with two or three other mediators will give you experience that you can only get otherwise by expecting your paying clients to be your unknowing guinea pigs.
Practice, practice, practice
Find some others who want to learn in a safe way at no risk to your reputation and just practice until you feel confident. Then your next online mediation enquiry will be welcome and not dreaded.
Keep mediating and keep safe.