Blogging From Europe, Part II by Gary Friedman

I’m still teaching in Europe having taught a program primarily for mediation trainers, and the question that was most controversial was whether mediation trainers should reveal their views about the model of mediation they prefer when training new mediators. It took me a while to even be able to understand the question, partly because I have always taught the one model of mediation that I practice. Although recently I have taught several programs with other teachers, simultaneously teaching the settlement conference caucus based model, and have found that interesting.  What I learned in this program was that those trainers who didn’t want to indicate their preference for a model were taking that position out of respect for the mediator’s choice, analogous to the parties decision making choice in mediation.   While this impulse I can respect, I strongly differ with it for a number of reasons. First, I think we should all teach what we best know and believe and the differences between models are significant. Second, by choosing to teach one model of mediation, we give the participants a chance to work off of that model, and use those parts of the model that make most sense to them. Finally, Hiding our preferences leads to a kind of mushiness to act as if all models of mediation are equally valid, and can give the impression that there are no values choices underlying the choice of model to teach and practice.
Our model of mediation comes out of deeply held beliefs and I think it is important to the mediation community that we make those visible to the people we teach with the passion that we feel for them while at the same time don’t fall into the trap of imposing our beliefs on others. As a matter of fact, one of my most deeply held beliefs is to respect the choice of others to make their own decisions which doesn’t mean we have to hide our own beliefs. We do encourage people who come to our programs to go to other trainings where they can learn other models.  But we’re not about to start teaching what we don’t practice.