Summary of "The Making of a Mediator: Developing Artistry in Practice"

Summary of

The Making of a Mediator: Developing Artistry in Practice

by  Michael D. Lang and Alison Taylor

Summary written by Conflict Research Consortium Staff

Citation: Lang, Michael D. and Alison Taylor. The Making of a Mediator: Developing Artistry in Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000, 254 pp.

The Making of a Mediator: Developing Artistry in Practice is aimed at practicing mediators and is meant to serve as a guide for helping mediators achieve excellence or "artistry" in their practice of mediation. "Artistry" is defined as "a mind-set-a commitment to curiosity and exploration, to excellence and learning" (xiii). The authors vehemently shun mediocrity and strongly encourage readers to reflectively analyze their own theoretical foundations and approaches to the practice of mediation, in order to become more aware of the links between theory and practice that they personally act out in their own careers. Lang and Taylor believe that if mediators make the theories, beliefs, information, ideas, and knowledge that they employ more explicit, they will better understand the choices they make in practice. As the authors see it, the practice of reflectivity and the deepened understanding that is produced by it, will ultimately lead to the achievement of artistry in mediation practice. Essentially, this work is an examination of the process of professional development by which novice mediators become artists.

The work is divided into three parts: 1) Artistry 2) Relective Practice 3) Interactive Process. Part I consists of Chapters One through Three and focuses on various aspects of artistry-what it is, where it comes from, and how one identifies it in practice. Chapter One presents the authors' four-stage model of professional development, or the skill levels that culminate in artistry -- 1) The Novice 2) The Apprentice 3) The Practitioner 4) The Artist. Chapter Two discusses the qualities and characteristics that identify artistic practice. Such qualities include attention to detail, curiosity, exploration and discovery, developing and testing formulations, interpretation, and patience and vision. Lastly, Chapter Three presents examples that demonstrate the skills and mind-set that will help practitioners advance along the path toward artistry.

Part II, Reflective Practice, is comprised of Chapters Four through Six. This part is about engaging in reflective practice, which may only be accomplished after mediators identify their working assumptions. In Chapter 4, Lang and Taylor explain the concept of formulation-"the effort to construct meaning out of experiences, events, and interactions" (xviii). Chapter Five discusses the notion of a "constellation of theories". This concept assumes that if one identifies the theories that actually guide one's practice, he or she may be able to then become deliberate and consistent in employing those theories and making strategic decisions in practice. Chapter 6 covers the principles, practices, and mind-set that the truly reflective practitioner must enact. Examples of such principles and practices include continual self-reflection, reliance on theory to guide practice, experimentation, willingness to experience surprise, openness to new information, and not seeing oneself as an ultimate expert.

The final part of the book (Part III) concentrates on the implementation of reflective practice. Implementing this method and pathway to artistry heavily depends on the practitioner's ability to recognize the patterns of interaction that occur and extend throughout the mediation. Chapter Seven discusses the concept of critical moments, or important junctures in the mediation process that invite the mediator to intervene and suggest a technique or direction for the mediation to proceed. Interactive process is the focus of Chapter 8. This notion is grounded in the theory that each and every action of the mediator or the participants influences the behavior, attitude, and responses of the other participants in a mediation session. Chapter Nine describes the experience of "flow", which is the state of moving effortlessly with clients. "Artistry is reflected in the experience of flow" (xix). The final chapter provides a review of the principles, methods, and exercises discussed in the work and makes suggestions regarding how to incorporate the development of artistry into training courses, graduate studies, and criteria for assessing mediator competency.

This work should serve as an enlightening read for professional mediators. Each chapter includes self-reflective questions for readers to ask themselves, as well as exercises to solidify the meaning of the book's concepts. The authors refuse to accept mediocrity in the practice of mediation and hope to convey their passion for the field, in turn aiming to inspire other mediators to strive for excellence and artistry.