Mediation Trainings in Toronto (and My Upcoming Trainings)
Last week I spent several days in Toronto: First, at the AFCC annual conference (Association of Family and Conciliation Courts – a growing 50-year-old organization devoted to resolving divorce and parenting conflicts most effectively in and out of court). There were over 1100 family professionals there from around the world – and lots of positive energy. I gave a session to 130 people on the “New Ways for Mediation” method I have been developing over the past five years with National Conflict Resolution Center and High Conflict Institute in San Diego. (For a nutshell version of this method, see “Is Divorce Mediation for You?” – a 60-minute demonstration video.)
I emphasized the importance of really connecting with the parties regardless of their slowness and frequent movements backward as well as forward. By staying really connected by giving Empathy, Attention and Respect throughout the process, mediators can be more successful with high-conflict parents. This approach can be used, whether the couple is in the same room or in separate rooms.
The problem is that high-conflict people see ALL relationships as inherently adversarial, so they fight those trying to help them (lawyers, mediators, judges, etc.) unless these professionals can truly stay calm and not fight them back. Then they calm down and can focus on problem-solving.
Second, I gave a 2-day training to about 40 mediators with the Mediate393 and Riverdale Mediation in Toronto. This was a very committed and engaging group, with lots of experience in the room and excellent questions. I emphasized Connecting, as I did at AFCC, as well as training them in the structure of “New Ways for Mediation.” This structure keeps the emphasis on clients learning and using skills for problem solving – especially a 3-step method for proposals: 1. Making proposals; 2. Asking questions about proposals; and 3. Responding with “Yes.” “No.” Or: “I’ll think about it.” (For more on this method, see my book So, What’s Your Proposal coming out in September.)
Structure also means keeping the parties focused on narrow topics, asking questions, making their agenda, when to talk and when the mediator talks. All of this helps slow the usual rapid-fire attack-and-defend comments that characterize high-conflict couples. By taking issues in small bits, the parties are less defensive and more productive at making proposals and making decisions. Mediators like this structure, because it helps them maintain control of the process while the parties are focusing on making proposals and decisions. It’s actually a fairly simple approach, but it takes practice – which is what we did during these two days. I think they really “got it” and many said they appreciated having tools they could use right away in their next mediations.
Plus, I always enjoy my visits to Toronto. It’s one of the most diverse cities in the world and it’s a beautiful city. They had beautiful spring weather the whole week, so I enjoyed some nice walks around town.
Bill Eddy is a Professional Family Mediator, as well as a lawyer and therapist. He is on the Board of the Academy of Professional Family Mediators (APFM) and will be assisting with an APFM training in Seattle on July 19-20 on Power Imbalance in Family Mediation with two other trainers from Toronto. For more information see www.APFMnet.org.
He is also providing trainings in San Diego June 23-27 on New Ways for Families, New Ways for Mediation and Managing High Conflict People in the Workplace. For more information visit HighConflictInstitute.com.