My Mediation Mentorship Journey, in few words, by Sruthi Murali, Mediation Enthusiast and Law Graduate from School of Excellence in law, Chennai.
I interned at Dialogue den, a boutique firm for Conflict Management and Private Mediation run by Amee Dharamshi. Initially, the internship was for two months, then for my interest in learning mediation, I kept in touch with Amee and we transformed the relationship of internship into a continuous mentorship. The journey of learning mediation has been an intriguing journey. In this write-up, I have journaled some of my observations. This is my first personal mediation write-up. I hope you enjoy reading my reflections.
The first time I heard about Mediation was during my second year of 5years of law school. It was via an opportunity to participate in a national level mediation competition. I signed up for the competition with my own research knowledge on the mediation process. This was it. I was fascinated by the essence of mediation, the very first time I had an acquaintance with it. My participation in the competition received positive feedback, which only sparked my interest to learn more about mediation. I kept researching mediation on my own, until I heard Amee’s speech in a workshop in Chennai. Amee was at the workshop to speak about Conflict Resolution and Mediation.
I approached Amee and asked if there could be a chance to intern with her to participate in real-time mediations. I hadn’t completed any formal mediation training, hence, Amee reminded me about the limitations of the internship if I wished to sit in a real mediation. I took up the internship for knowledge, research, and primarily for having an experience sharing with Amee’s behind-the-scenes management of a mediation practice.
Personally, I had concretely identified my personality skills with that of a mediator’s skills. In most of my social circles, I have found myself intervening between friends and family members having a disagreement or any such conversational tussle. Although I knew I had a long way to go to learn the professional way of mediation, I began to relate my abilities to the skills of a mediator. My keen interest in any conflict discussion would be to explore underlying factors affecting the situation, so I could solve the conflicts from the roots. I would always want to create an ambience for my friends and families with an intention to avert the escalation of conflict.
All of this slowly fell in place for me, during my internship at Dialogue den, and then through the continuous mentorship with Amee. During my time at Dialogue den:
- I spent a lot of time researching.
We were a team of interns, with our respective assigned roles. We had to curate a collection of dispute resolution clauses. We started by making a continent wise list, proceeding to create a list of countries with arbitration and mediation institutes. This research landed us on the website of each institute, with a total collection of 80+ varieties of alternative dispute resolution clauses. We gained a bird’s eye on how to adapt the international multi-tier dispute resolution clauses.
- As the thoughts grew, we practised creative writing.
One such interesting assignment was to inculcate the concept of mediation with my passion for dancing Bharatanatyam (a traditional Indian Classical Dance form). I have been professionally practising Bharatnatyam since age 5. We tried to parallel the two worlds of conflict resolution and dance, attempting to find a common ground. This steered our research with deeper understanding on the nuances that every good mediator would love to master about – reading facial expressions, emotions, feelings, and physical gestures.
- At regular intervals, we exchanged suggested readings.
I was introduced to the book Getting to Yes, blogs like Kluwer Mediation Blog and Mediate.com, institutions like Young Mediators Initiative, and International Mediation Institute, and other academic YouTube videos.
- We participated in several mediation competitions.
With the team from my law school, we participated in mediation competitions, both at national and international levels. Under the guidance of Amee, the preparations for the competitions included not only learning the skills of a mediator but also how one could adapt the social skills of empathy, listening, communicating, planning, organisation conversations, sorting the information, and much more. The prep sessions would put us in a room to creatively think, generate new options and solutions for the example case studies. We learnt information management skills, specifically communication management.
- Regularly, Amee arranged 121 mentoring, group briefing & debriefing, and exchange sessions together with all the interns.
We discussed academic topics, the various aspects of the mediation profession in India, the grass-root level challenges of a mediator in handling the clientele, etc. All of these conversations were based on Amee’s daily work life experiences and in all of these discussions we would reflect on how a professional mediator would be able to set up practice in a culturally diverse country like India. This also helped me gain an understanding of how the theoretical concepts of conflict resolution are applied in real-time mediation sessions. While interning at Dialogue Den, I met co-interns from different states in India with whom we would frequently engage in group discussion to exchange ideas. This helped us collectively assimilate and compile the research on international multi-tier dispute resolution clauses, equipping us with teamwork skills.
- Group dialogue circles with fellow mentees.
Occasionally, Amee would organize dialogue circles in which we would engage in conversations and networking with each other. At times, these would be to reflect our experiences in mediation competitions as well as to guide each other for our daily life activities. These dialogue circles would also offer us a safe space to share our thoughts and ideas.
I could keep writing, as my mediation journey has just begun. But in the end here, I can only say that this journey for me, brings a feeling of joy with excitement. On a serious note, the experience of being a mentee to Amee has inspired me further to build my career in mediation. Based on my learnings on mediation and negotiation skills, I have also guided juniors from my law school for their mediation competitions. Every conversation with Amee is brimming with creative ideas, which inspire me with a lot to reflect on. Amee is very creative in presenting her ideas and is always open to suggestions from young minds. She is approachable, friendly, and helpful to students and has been my go-to person for any questions or discussions on conflict resolution and mediation. Throughout our time together, she has been supportive and encouraging to me. Having been enthusiastic about mediation, I am glad to have reached out to her to discuss the possibility of interning with her. During my association with Amee, I have keenly observed how she naturally demonstrates subtle yet crucial soft skills one could apply for conflict resolution, like phrasing, re-phrasing, and manner of communication. And that is how, today, what began as a two-month internship slowly grew into a continuous mentor-mentee relationship, of which I am very glad about.
For my immediate future, I plan to find a 40hr mediation course, enrol and get myself trained to earn an accreditation. I am also exploring the possibility of pursuing an advanced academic course in Mediation. In the near future, I intend to set up my independent mediation practice, based in Chennai. I wish to promote and advocate mediation in my birth city Chennai, Tamil Nadu. If each of us takes responsibility for proactive steps in our own regions, we can be assured that a larger number of people will benefit from the choice of mediation.