by Xenia Makridou
Starting Monday, February 22nd and ending Friday, February 26th 2016, the mediation training I undertook to become the accredited mediator I am today was incredible. Despite the mixed feelings during the week, looking back at it, I can see something very important: what Jonathan told us on the very first day – ‘mediation is easy, but it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do – and the most rewarding’ – couldn’t be more spot on. That week proved incredibly beneficial for my personal and professional development – probably the most good I’ve ever done to myself by attending something like this – and, at the same time, extremely draining both physically and mentally. I referred to this situation briefly in my last post, but this post will be a detailed description of my changing feelings as the week progressed.
I went in on Monday completely and utterly stressed out – fear of the unknown, clearly. I had a 10-hour day in front of me, which did not help much in itself either. I met a few people and really, the first day was good fun, in general. It was mostly learning, and if you know me, you know that I love learning for the sake of it. I’m not really into putting it into practice when it comes to speaking in front of people and the like – which is pretty bad, considering I’m studying law, looking to become a barrister. It’s not so much that I can’t do it – I guess it’s more like it makes me very anxious, and I prefer living my life slightly less rushed and stressful, for the time being. In any case, considering the first day was pretty much just listening to people talk, I was fine with it. We had a couple of other activities too, some being very fun, for example when we had a demonstration mediation by some alumni of the course and when we made circles to get to know each other. I guess the only activity I didn’t enjoy very much was when I paired up with someone for a negotiation exercise who was not particularly friendly – and I had never negotiated before, so here you go. Overall, the first day was very tiring, but pretty easy really, having read the entire book on the weekend before I went in on Monday (yep, I’m a nerd like that!). So, Day 1: nothing terrible; nothing noteworthy.
Day 2 was bad – very bad. We had 3 role-plays, alongside the lecturing. I had to mediate the last one of the day, having played the lawyer in the first one, and been an observer in the second. I was happy with my performance as the lawyer in the first role-play, yet my happiness didn’t last long. In brief, in my mediation, I just burst out crying like a baby. It was bad. Looking back at it, it was all the stress which had built up over the days coming out at that very moment. And it was also the fear of failure, and the disappointment in myself afterwards, because I went in feeling as though I had it – I mean I had read the book, and I knew what was going on, so I believed in myself – I thought it would be fairly ‘easy’. It turns out, it was ‘the hardest thing’. I was prepared to some extent, but not to the full extent – this is what I discovered afterwards. I couldn’t possibly be prepared for the full extent though! It was only my very first mediation – it was inevitable that I would feel lost and as though I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t understand that at that moment though, and considering I can’t stand failure, I just couldn’t handle not doing well in the mediation, resulting in tears. In any case, I was very, very upset – and did contemplate quitting. But I’m not a quitter, so I went back the next day like nothing had happened the previous evening.
Nothing too special – just role-playing and observing.
I aced that co-mediation so hard (haha). I surprised myself! I couldn’t believe the improvement that had occurred in just 2 days! It went great. And so did the one on Day 5! So, overall, we had to do 1 solo and 2 co-mediations each. The first one went terribly, but the others went incredibly well. It very much depended on who your co-mediator was, and whether you could communicate, and who the participants (parties) in the mediation were. So, for example, my co-mediator in both situations was very friendly and approachable, which allowed me to relax and really take on the task. We also had a wonderful connection, which allowed us to work well together. The actors also influence how it’s going to go, because they may indeed help the situation, or they may simply just ruin the entire thing. So, I guess you could say we were pretty lucky both times to have good actors. In any case, this is real-life! You never know what you will get as a mediator, so you better prepare for any kind of situation.
To sum up, I learnt incredible things during that one week, and I couldn’t be more thankful for having had the opportunity to participate. I learnt to really listen, rather than only hear. And that Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. I also made friends! I got to know almost everyone in the course, which was really great, and despite feeling terribly at the beginning of the week, by the end of it everything had turned out well, and that was truly wonderful.
Don’t give up. If you fall down, you must stand back up. Don’t stress – relax & enjoy.