Is everybody else beginning to forget what life was like in a world where we actually met other human beings other than on a screen? I’ve just finished chairing a FMA regional Zoom meeting. I’m beginning to forget that people aren’t just talking heads. Not that I’m knocking it. Zoom and its like keep us all in touch with friends, family and colleagues. They allow us to do things like pilates whilst trapped in this strange lockdown bubble. It keeps us engaged with the world beyond our own front doors even if that’s just by glimpsing the world inside other people’s homes.

And importantly Zoom enables me to go on working as a mediator. Listening to other mediators, its’ clear that there is a dichotomy between those who hate online working and those who are embracing it with passion and are constantly exploring the new parameters. I’m definitely in that camp. It’s not just a stopgap for me until we can all go back into a room with clients. I enjoy the work itself.

In part that’s because it’s a challenge, something new. It’s a different way of mediating,sometimes in quite subtle ways. The principles remain the same. However it becomes ever more obvious to me that clients approach online mediation differently to when they are in the same room. Sessions are shorter. Why? I think it’s because clients are more business like in their approach. Don’t get me wrong. We still have a lot of emotion, sometimes tears, sometimes raised voices and sometimes a participant leaving their screen when it all gets a bit much. However by and large my mediation clients are more focused on the task in hand.

I’m also sure that, although both people can hear and see each other and still pick up a lot of non verbal signals, at the end of the day they remain in their own comfort zone. They are after all in their own space not the alien territory of my office however comfortable I try to make it.

Beyond all that though what excites me is the flexibility. I can mediate between clients in different parts of the UK, even different continents. The possibilities are indeed endless. Distance is no object. This offers opportunities for us mediators of working for clients wherever they may be. It means there don’t need to be mediation deserts in remote areas. It means that we can mediate where clients are housebound by illness or disability not just lockdown rules. It just made the world of mediation much bigger.


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