Dear Ohio Mediators,
We are not always as neutral as we think we are. What’s your agenda?
As a professional mediator, does your agenda include the survival and growth of your profession?
As mediators we understand neutrality, and we are successful in maintaining a neutral stance when we work with the disputants who come to us for help. We are trained to check our biases at the door. After all, we are professional mediators. But there is a bias, or self-interest, if you will, that I believe all mediators should practice: survival and growth of our profession.
The Ohio Mediation Association is uniquely capable of providing a structure to meet the needs of professional mediators, but that structure must be built and fortified by members and leadership. Without a dedicated organization to provide Ohio professional mediators a venue to grow their skills and a voice to educate the public, there is a threat the perceived value of mediation could shrink and fade away.
I am asking any and all professional mediators two things—please join me in rethinking how the OMA can 1) better serve the profession, and you, and 2) better educate the public.
You may be a court employee mediator, a part-time mediator who is also an attorney, therapist, other professional, or semi-retired grandparent. Or you may be like me, a self-employed full-time mediator with a private practice supplemented with a patchwork of court contracts and roster listings. We all have one thing in common as professionals, though. Despite our practice types or styles, we share a drive to provide excellent mediation to parties who seek self-determined resolutions of their disputes. This can only happen if our profession survives and grows.
It may be easy enough to work hard, provide services to those who ask and pay, to feel that we are doing enough “good” for the world while earning a living for ourselves. Hopefully most of us are meeting our personal needs through our mediation practice. I admit, all that makes me happy, as-is!
But is that enough? Are we also seeing the bigger picture? Are we doing enough to safeguard the future of our profession?
From a longer view, I think OMA members could do more: for the public, for the profession, and even for ourselves.
For most of us, it took years of study, hard work, and generous mentors to gain competence, confidence and financial comfort as professional mediators. To better see that longer view, consider how many people, children, families, businesses you alone have helped through mediation. Now consider how many Ohioans have benefited from our collective professional work. Ohio mediators have helped countless people!
It is crucial that we keep our skills sharp and open to modern thinking so we may continue to help people. We are fortunate that professional education opportunities are plentiful in our state, region and country. But do you feel like you have enough chance to process and communicate challenges or new knowledge with your colleagues from across the state? Would you find value in hearing case studies, lessons learned, and the trials and tribulations of mediators in other counties? Maybe it’s just me, but I would love that. OMA could be the perfect venue for such professional growth if we build a structure to accommodate that, and other topics which members may request. Please share your ideas!
Other than disputants who have directly benefitted from mediation, does the average Ohio citizen really know what professional mediation is? Do people understand that mediation can be an option before or after filing in court? Do they know that mediation can be used for limitless disputes, or as dispute prevention, not just for small claims, divorce, or world politics? The OMA could do more to educate and reach out to the public. Disputes happen; that’s a fact. But people will not seek mediation if they do not understand its benefits. Let’s show them! Please share your ideas!
As professional mediators, we owe it to ourselves to elevate how we mediate to the highest professional standards.
As professional mediators, we owe it to society to educate the public about how we help resolve disputes.
As professional mediators, we can accomplish these goals and more if we work together— that is my agenda for 2020.
What’s your agenda?
Please share your ideas!
Charlotte Parsons is an Appointed Board Member of the Ohio Mediation Association