Why do I worry about mental health as a mediator? After all, I am not a therapist.
Let's start with a question: what does being 'mentally healthy' even mean? According to a commonly used definition, people with good mental health possess certain key abilities, such as:
The ability to learn.
The ability to have feelings, to express them and to manage both positive and negative emotions.
The ability to form and maintain good relationships with other people.
The ability to deal with stress, setbacks, change and uncertainty.
Most of us use these skills every day. However, sometimes, acting on even these basic abilities is challenging in today's fast-paced, digital, and uncertain world. With all the changes around us and the differing opinions, we are not always successful in staying positive. At least temporarily, many of us feel exhausted and less efficient. Often a certain cynicism and negative attitude creeps into our thoughts and conversations, threatening to affect us mentally.
Should these feelings intensify and worsen, so that you no longer feel effective, consciously minimize social contacts, and perhaps even experience a certain discouragement or hopelessness, your mental health might be at risk. Among other things, this can mean that the risk of a burnout increases.
But why do I worry about this as a mediator? There are two important angles that I would like to point out:
In our line of work as mediators and (conflict) coaches, we also encounter people with psychological difficulties. If so, we must react accordingly. This does not entail taking on the role of a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist (which I - ethically and professionally - am personally not equipped to do). But it does mean to be aware and to adapt communication styles and reactions and responses to the parties. It also means that - if necessary - we suggest the involvement of specialists and maybe even postpone mediation proceedings or coaching sessions.
On the other hand, every mediator must be aware that the frequent exposure of conflicts also has an effect on our own psyche. Not only dealing with your personal conflicts triggers a reaction but also being in the role of a mediator or conflict coach can affect your psychological wellbeing. So be aware!
Having both aspects in mind, I feel it is essential and our professional responsibility to be aware of our own resources and how to use and enhance them. Building up your toolbox and your resilience is the key! Beyond our own wellbeing, we need to have measures and references available for our clients, should they need them. Such measures can be things that give joy, such as breaks, walks in nature, talking to colleagues and friends, but also relaxation techniques - all excellent ways to strengthen yourself and supporting your clients.
Further, I can only recommend every mediator to get a basis on the subject of mental health, be it through specialist literature, workshops / webinars or by attending a training course on the subject. Personally, I can highly recommend the first aid course for mental health offered by the ‘Pro Mente Sana’ foundation (https://ensa.swiss).
If you need support in resolving a current conflict or are interested in improving how you or your company deals with conflicts, please contact me for a first discussion about conflict management, (conflict) coaching, or mediation.
A similar post was originally published on March 25, 2022 by Beatrice Herrmann on commercialmediation.ch.