Deep Listening

From 15 to 17 April I attended the National Mediation Conference in Canberra. Dr June Oscar AO, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, spoke of an Indigenous approach to mediation and peacekeeping that involves deep listening without an agenda, to uncover the concerns of the people.

I love the idea of “deep listening” and I think it captures the type of engagement we could aspire to when working with clients for our facilitations and mediations.

Some other concepts from the conference that resonated with me were (paraphrasing from the presentations):

The challenges in some workplaces are that they create a culture of separation rather than a culture of connection.

You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. (These two from Scott Dutton)

It can be helpful to explain to participants that our role is to help with a question or strategy to assist them in their workplace relationship. It is their relationship not ours.

It involves courage to take action for the better. (These two from Zandy Fell)

When we hear a person speak in mediation, there is an “emotional drop” below the surface that we try to understand. This has a parallel to when we read poetry and try to understand the meaning beneath the words.

Mediators set a tone through their use of language and metaphor e.g. Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. (These two from David Bryson speaking on ADR lessons from the art of poetry)

We can suffer from “compassion fatigue” and “vicarious trauma” in our work as mediators. (Anna Hows)

An apology reverses the power dynamics of the event i.e. if the “victim” will accept the apology that is offered by the “offender”. (Chris Marshall)

I also heard some pearls of wisdom from some workshop participants:

“Space and grace” – a participant in a mediation may wish to re-wind what they said if it came out in a clumsy way. Then they can have another go at expressing themselves.

In a talk on Relationships or Marital Mediation by Mieke Brandon, when Mieke asked what are some things that make a happy marriage, one participant said, “Curiosity – being curious about the other partner”.

So that is where I leave you today, my colleagues. With that word which we can take into our lives and our work: