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What If Mediation Science Originated In The Real World?

Thursday, 8th February 2019


Early in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1891 short story A Scandal in Bohemia, Sherlock Holmes gives Watson a lecture on the difference between seeing and observing. To test how well Watson understood, Holmes hands him an unaddressed, undated, anonymous letter that had just arrived on the doormat. It announced that an unnamed visitor would shortly arrive to consult Holmes, perhaps wearing a mask. Watson read it, declared it to be mysterious, and asked Holmes what it meant. The great detective replied: I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly, one begins to twist facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts.

Of course all mediators apply this wisdom when they start and progress a case. Questioning, listening, noting, delving, querying, testing, clarifying, re-questioning, never assuming. Data provides the power that enables a mediator to assist the parties toward a mutually acceptable outcome. But does it stop there? When it comes to skills and techniques, could the data that is currently available be greatly improved?

The current body of mediation research data that underpins mediators’ skills and techniques is highly fragmented. Most has been conducted on a small national or local scale by individual provider and academic institutions. The data is often based on statistics, surveys and class exercises with available participants, such as trainees and students. These controlled laboratory studies by scholars and service providers are typically cost-efficient and fast, enabling relatively easy analysis. They have been crucial in the early development of mediation. However, as commentators have noted, the classroom behavior of students and trainees, not to mention surveys, can differ markedly from action in the real world1), challenging the robustness of the data.

The more accurate, but also more difficult, way to conduct research is out in the field, in live action. Field research is largely based on actual observations of the live action by skilled researchers. The quality of the results, once analyzed, is more credible than from lab studies. Unlike lab work with students and trainees, researchers in the field cannot establish, control and manipulate the factors and variables that come into play. This means that the results need to be assessed differently to establish a true correlation between certain mediation techniques and specific outcomes. There has been little real field research in mediation because it is costly, complicated and parties need to allow the presence of a researcher.

But as we start a New Year, soon a new decade, let’s dare to be a bit adventurous.

What if a vast range of mediation skills and techniques could be radically improved by new data derived from large-scale national and international field research?"

Select the link to read this interesting and thought provoking article, along with comments from fellow mediatorsd, below: 

Source: Corporate counsel & author
Language: English
Contact: Michael Leathes

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