To write the title of this post, I have paraphrased a sentence in an article from PopSci: "[A]ll education is brain-based. It is impossible to learn without a brain." That statement is true for education—and my version fits for mediation.
The article, one I highly recommend to you, is titled "Everything You've Been Told About How You Learn Is A Lie" and it describes three myths about learning: left brain-right brain, learning styles, and a catch-all the author labels "__ Will Make You Smarter." Perhaps a bit of the writer's frustration comes through in the article, or perhaps I am only imagining that because my frustration grows with the use of some "brain science" I see being applied to mediation. But you have heard me talk about that frustration many times before here or perhaps in one of my programs.
To introduce another source of my frustration (somewhat related to the one mentioned above), here's another paraphrase for you, from a very good book I am reading: "Under no circumstances should [conflict resolution] be reduced to a technique." The actual sentence, from A Guide to Third Generation Coaching, reads "coaching" instead of "conflict resolution."
The technique-driven approach is common in mediation. Yes, we have learned from neuroscience a few, and let me stress few, techniques that may be helpful sometimes, with some people, in some situations. (Click to read more about the Maxim of SIN: Situational, Individual, Now.) That's part of the reason I attend conferences such as the annual meeting of Association for Psychological Science: to learn new research and see when it might be helpful in conflict resolution—and, more frequently, when it probably won't. For example, I still have posts pending from the May APS conference on such topics as:
- the potential pathology of the group approach to problems
- the malleability of personality traits
- the explosion of emotion regulation research and how much we still don't know
In addition to criticism of a technique focus, much of the rest of the book A Guide to Third Generation Coaching also can apply to the process of dispute resolution.
For example, the book's author Reinhard Stelter presents three stages or generations of coaching and posits we are now in the third stage.
The first generation he describes as having "a problem and goal perspective": Helping "the coachee address his or her
The second generation has a "solution- and future-oriented perspective." The main goal is generating "positive future scenarios with a strong focus on existing resources and strengths that the coachee already possesses" and can build upon. "It tends to have less narrow goals than first-generation coaching."The third generation is "coaching in a reflective perspective."
The coaching conversation can be described as a co-creative and collaborative process, where the coach and coachee are both experts in their respective domains, and, at the same time, not-knowing at the beginning of the conversation. The knowledge that is generated emerges between them in a dialogue process that gives rise to something new for both of them. As a prominent feature, the coaching dialogue revolves around values and the meaning-making aspects of life—aspects that are especially central in people's lives—thus inviting both the coach and the coachee into a reflective space that transcends everybody's life and its challenges.
Click to read more about the three generations of coaching.
Everyday mediation occurs with "a reflective perspective;" at least some mediators regularly use that approach. (It sounds like a cousin to some iterations of transformative.) And, of course, one could easily argue that not every client wants or needs a third-generation process. Very true, and furthermore, if one gives credence to such developmental experts as William Perry and Robert Kegan and a whole line of other theorists and practitioners, many clients and coaches or mediators would not be able to participate in a third-generation process.
I do give credence to those experts and also firmly believe that mediators should be capable of assessing WITH the client which generation or method or process is a fit. And, if the mediator is not a fit, he or she should refer to another practitioner. Because I believe this so strongly, I will be offering a program to help with the assessment.
A distinction I would make between mediation and coaching as Stelter sees it is one of labeling. I don't think that the reflective perspective could aptly be called third-generation mediation. Many of us started out there decades ago. It is our roots.
How about you? Any thoughts on technique-driven mediation? Reflective-perspective (like that rhyme!) conflict resolution?
Note: Thinking of roots brings these words to mind.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
--T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding" (last of Four Quartets)