Applicants need graciousness, benevolence and love
Mediation, as defined by Wikipedia, is a dynamic, structured, interactive process where a neutral third party assists disputing parties in resolving conflict through the use of specialized communication and negotiation techniques. A theoretical, dry description that would certainly discourage most of us from wanting to learn more.
But there are people, who know how to make the subject lively and interesting. Susanne Schuler’s book “Intercultural Mediation at Work” is exactly that – a concise, easy-to-read description of intercultural mediation and in just 79 pages! Admittedly, you won’t be a top mediator just by reading this short work, but it gives you a nice overview of the field and good advice on how to get started.
The book begins with the origins of human conflict, the different conflict styles (from avoiding to collaborating), defines culture, mediation, characteristics of a great mediator, justifications for behavior and links all this together with methods and techniques. At the end of each chapter, there’s a reflection and practical tip section to help synthesize the newly acquired knowledge.
Although the book is about intercultural relations, it importantly stresses that cultural differences are not the only factors in conflict; there are others that need to also be considered, such as one’s own personal styles and biases.
The chapter I enjoyed the most was the author’s “Properties of a great mediator”. First, she writes that there are the interpersonal skills, such as empathy, an open and curious attitude, active listening. Second, a certain experience and expertise in mediating. What this means is that mediators are not experts in the specific fields they are intervening in. Rather, they are acting as process managers and the parties concerned are the experts, finding themselves a solution to their conflict. Lastly, there are the competences, acquired through recognized mediation trainings. This includes communication, psychology, relationships, process and content skills.
What’s important is to intuitively know how to use the appropriate mix. It’s like playing the organ. You have all sorts of keys to create a melody on more than one keyboard, plus you have registers and foot pedals. An artist intuitively mixes all parts to attain the ultimate effect on people. The same applies to a mediator.
What makes this book exceptional is it’s transcending wisdom. For the reader is introduced to an almost forgotten concept, rarely discussed in our increasingly hectic and polarized world. It’s the notion of charity. It’s defined it as “graciousness, benevolence and love. It moves us to care about the well-being and outcomes of others within our group.” With those words, you then understand why Susanne Schuler does so well in her profession.
About the Reviewer – Patrick Schmidt is a trilingual American living and working in Strasbourg in the Intercultural field and is the author of many books including, “In search of Intercultural Understanding”
Intercultural Mediation by Susanne Schuler is published as an E Book by Bookboon. Price £8.99.