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The Art Of Reflection

There are many ways to think about the often-used mediation skill referred to by various names and taught as a technique in most forms of mediation training: 

•Paraphrasing – parafraseren/gevoels reflective geven

•Reframing – positief heretiketteren

•Repeating – herhalen, papegaaien 

•Reflecting/mirroring – weerspiegelen


These terms are often used interchangeably, resulting sometimes in misunderstandings and confusion concerning the purpose of the intervention (the mediator’s intention) as well as how to artfully practice the technique or skill in question. 


“The Art of Reflection” hones in on the intervention of reflection as it is uniquely and specifically understood within the Transformative Mediation model; as a way to support party agency, self-determination, and choice-making. Skillful reflection also supports greater clarity and recognition between parties, which is essential for the goal of helping them improve their conflict interaction.

The intervention of reflection in this model is very much a process of mirroring and amplifying what one party has said, in an effort to help that person hear themselves, and to draw strength and gain clarity about what they’ve said and what they want to say.


Definition of the verb – to reflect:

•  to throw or bend back (light or sound) 

•  terugkaatsen; weerspiegelen; terugwerpen

•  to give back or show an image; mirror

•  licht en beelden weerkaatsen als een spiegel


It is so important to practice how a mediator can use a party’s own language in their reflections, without sounding mechanistic, condescending, or parroting. In examining the risks involved in paraphrasing and/or interpreting the words and nonverbal communication of the speaker, we focus on the importance of the mediator’s intention to purely reflect, rather than to steer someone in any particular direction.


Reflecties zijn neutraal en spiegelend, zonder boodschappen aan de deelnemers. De mediator reflecteert niet zodat degene die hij reflecteert of degene die luistert iets anders hoort of doet. Hij is slechts gefocust op het ondersteunen van degene die hij reflecteert, zodat hij misschien een stapje kan maken naar meer zelfvertrouwen, helderheid, en/of begrip voor de andere. Of de reflectie op dat moment of later leidt tot meer erkenning van de andere partij is een prettige bijkomstigheid van de interventie. Met andere woorden, een reflectie richt de schijnwerper op uitspraken van een van de deelnemers. Daardoor wordt wat deze zegt zichtbaar voor beide gespreksdeelnemers. Zij horen beter wat er gezegd is en ze kunnen nadenken over hun reactie hierop.*



*Reflecties: Transformative mediation in de praktijk, written by: Transformatieve Mediation Groep Amsterdam en Carol V. Bloom




This training lays the foundation for a (re)examination of the values held by many mediators about what makes this profession unique – namely, supporting and preserving the participants in having “voice and choice”. This principle of self-determination for parties in mediation, is what distinguishes the process from other forms of dispute resolution, and it is at the core of the Transformative model. 


The transformative framework was originally introduced by Joseph P. Folger and Robert A. Baruch Bush in The Promise of Mediation (1994). The transformative model helps participants to have more constructive conflict conversations by means of supporting each party’s ability to:

  • make choices about how to deal with whatever difficulties they face (empowerment shift), and
  • experience an expanded willingness to acknowledge and be responsive to the other party’s experiences and perceptions (recognition shift)

The values base of the Transformative model and the skills that flow from it are focused on supporting participants to determine what they want to talk about, how they want to talk about it, and where they want to end up.


De interactie in een conflict verandert wanneer de deelnemers meer zelfvertrouwen hebben en voor zichzelf durven opkomen. Wanneer ze spreken en handelen vanuit een stevige basis, vanuit helderheid, dit is wat ik wil en wat ik nodig heb. Wanneer zij meer helderheid hebben over wat ze echt willen en welke stappen zij daarvoor kunnen nemen. Vanuit een steviger basis ontstaat rust. Juist dat geeft de basis voor het openen van nieuwe vensters en ruimte voor het luisteren naar de ander. De begrippen die hierbij centraal staan zijn ‘empowerment’ (zelfvertrouwen) en ‘recognition’ (openheid voor het perspectief van de ander,  bereid zijn de ander te horen) De transformatieve mediator ondersteunt de deelnemers hierin.*



*Reflecties: Transformative mediation in de praktijk, written by: Transformatieve Mediation Groep Amsterdam en Carol V. Bloom


Are you interested in learning more about the mediator’s role in balancing power differences between the parties? How realistic is it for us to think we can accurately assess power imbalances, let alone “even the table” in mediation? The Transformative Model encourages us to understand both parties as being temporarily disempowered, in terms of the conflict that brought them to mediation.


De complexiteit van de mens is groot…Hoeveel kunnen wij weten, hoeveel kunnen wij zien in die heel korte tijd dat we met hen meeleven? Het is waar dat machtsverschillen die we in mediation tegenkomen vaak een afspiegeling zijn van de machtsverschillen die onderdeel uitmaken van het sociale weefsel waarin we leven. Voorbeelden hiervan zijn de machtsverschillen die voortkomen uit de status van economische positie, klasse, opleiding, etniciteit, sekse, leeftijd, lichamelijke en psychische handicaps etc. Betekent dat dat wij door onze interventie als het ware macht kunnen afnemen van de een en macht geven aan de ander? En hoe is het dan wanneer deze mensen onze mediationruimte verlaten?* 


These are just some of the questions we’ll be examining in the June 5th masterclass on “power balancing in mediation”. Participants will engage in conversation and role play exercises, in order to practice different ways of intervening to support parties in mediation, regardless of what the balance of power is between them. 



*Reflecties: Transformative mediation in de praktijk, written by: Transformatieve Mediation Groep Amsterdam en Carol V. Bloom


Mind Mapping and the Transformative Framework

I have been working with a Dutch colleague, Kees van Eijk, over the past year, to develop training for the use of a particular form of Mind Mapping as part of team and group facilitation. We published a paper on this topic which is available to order (as PDF) for free from me – just email me. In December we offered a two hour, hands on introductory webinar through the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation. We are offering the webinar again on April 5th; register here:

We invite you to view a short sample from the December webinar:

3/28 Webinar: “Managing the Tensions of Inclusion”


Register here for this Wednesday’s webinar:


I have joined the webinar group of Inclusion Allies Coalition, and am honored to be facilitating this month’s webinar on March 28th, at 4:30pm EDT, 1:30pm PDT. It’s free and promises to be a very rich presentation and discussion! Please join us!

Power Balancing in Mediation

Power balancing in mediation basically refers to the goal and the practice of a mediator

a)    determining that there is a significant power differential between the parties

b)    feeling responsible to “even the table”, and

c)     intervening in ways that bolster or offer greater support to the “weaker” or “more disadvantaged” party


NOT power balancing in Transformative Mediation is based on foundational principles and premises for the practice of this model and the underlying beliefs about conflict:

a)    every participant in mediation has the inherent capacity for both self-determined choice and responsiveness to others

b)    every participant knows best how to work through conflict, including what options to consider and what choices to make

c)     each participant is temporarily weakened by the conflict, regardless of the power differentials between the parties

d)    it is dis-empowering to participants for the mediator to make assumptions or to supplant party-choice-making, including choices to comment upon or raise issues, directly or indirectly, related to perceived power imbalances


The theoretical underpinnings of power balancing in mediation, are informed by the idea that the parties must be able to negotiate and work through their conflict in a way that is basically “fair”, with neither party being at a severe disadvantage in relation to the other. But as many mediation practitioners and scholars have noted*, power imbalances exist in just about every relationship, if not every interaction. Life is often unfair, and so are the dynamics, resources, and positions of most disputants involved in mediation. So why do mediators believe they will be able to shift power imbalances during the course of one or even several mediation sessions?


How might the mediator be able to change the power dynamics between a divorcing couple who’ve been married for 15 years? While the “bread winner” may have more power in relationship to a partner who has never earned money, this same party may be at a disadvantage when negotiating for joint custody of their children. Could a white manager experience himself as less advantaged, and in a relatively weaker position than his Latino subordinate, in the mediation of a race-based discrimination complaint? How many times do mediators base their interpretation of the balance of power between parties on macro-societal power differentials and systemic inequities, which may have very little to do with how to best support both participants in having a more constructive interaction, in order to work out their conflict?

New Year New Beginnings


My new website is here and just in time for the new year! I’m bringing in 2018 with a fully re-structured site that gives my clients info about my upcoming work and access to all of my online media, all in one place. 


And what is a website without a blog? Connect with me here for more in depth looks at the services and trainings I offer, information about my professional travels, and advise from my 20+ years as a mediator, facilitator, and trainer.