Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Power of Mindful Learning

Here’s a short yet powerful book for your consideration about how we learn and it has direct application to mediation. It applies to how you present yourself as mediator and, of course, it also has many applications outside of mediation!

In The Power of Mindful Learning, Harvard psychology professor, Ellen J. Langer, debunks many of the myths of how we learn. Through research she describes how learning by rote creates mediocrity. She explains that when we practice the basics until they become second nature, then we generally perform the skill mindlessly, we create “artificial” limits and we find it hard to make small adjustments. In contrast she notes that if we learn the basics, but don’t over learn, then we can change and vary our skill as the situation dictates. We can also be more creative in that we have not created “artificial” limits.

In mediation, we as mediators generally approach a mediation based on a theory (interests, transformative, narrative, etc.), a stage model and probably have our “set” opening comments. However, if your approach has become “rote,” then in Langer’s terms you may be presenting mediocrity. Now I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t be guided by a theory and an approach; however, I am suggesting that you reconsider and perhaps re-learn how you start each mediation. Can you change your initial comments each time to keep them fresh? Can you try something new and creative so that no “artificial” limits are created?
As Langer suggests, we can be more expansive in our learning and I encourage you to do the same in your mediations!

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