Taking Mediation Skills to Vienna

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On a hilltop outside of Vienna, overlooking the meandering Danube River, I began a week of training mediation and negotiation skills to business professionals and practicing mediators. The group was participating in a year-long curriculum involving mediation and leadership competency training and I was the instructor charged with bringing the “American experience” to the conversation.

I was immediately impressed with the group’s knowledge of foundational skills, including the latest in advanced communication techniques and the impact of emotions on negotiation. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been too surprised as I was in a country that requires over 400 hours of training to qualify as a certified mediator.

What was missing from the group was any real world application of this knowledge to the world of commercial mediation. Thus the majority of my efforts were focused on practical skill development with a particular emphasis on negotiation. Throughout the week, my friend and host, Dr. Mario Patera, served as my intellectual counter point as we often debated the tradeoffs between the mediation model currently taught in Austria and the commercial model that has evolved in the U.S. over the past twenty years. In the end, the goal was to give the assembled group a broader bandwidth of knowledge so they could move forward in their professional lives able to make more informed choices.

By weeks end, I had covered the walls of the conference center with flip charts and diagrams helping illustrate what for many was a new paradigm in mediation. I can only hope that this concentrated dose of lectures, role-plays and class discussions broadened their understanding and skill set of what is required to succeed in the world of commercial mediation.

Bruce A. Edwards is an ADR industry pioneer and recent chairman of the board of directors of JAMS, this country’s largest private provider of ADR services. Along with his wife, Susan Franson Edwards, Mr. Edwards recently cofounded Edwards Mediation Academy, an online education platform dedicated to improving the skills of mediators around the world.