Our organisation is constantly progressing, fine-tuning and innovating ways to communicate, and the COVID pandemic makes no exception to this. The UK’s lockdown has accelerated Calm Mediation’s progress and accessibility by allowing us to make use of all online resources available to us.
Zoom video conferencing has been one of the game-changers for us during this time. Carrying out daily work online arguably forges stronger connections and makes online mediation more effective than ever before! On Thursday 14th May, Heather Loebl ran a training session for our practitioners, via zoom, about how to use this incredible resource.
It was clearly demonstrated how this invaluable tool can be successfully applied to community mediation and to restorative justice. In community mediation, all conflict arises from a breakdown in communication. In restorative justice, it’s crucial to facilitate communication so that clients feel heard and supported. Both disciplines require insight and an understanding of each other and Zoom allows clients to have those meaningful conversations with the mediators and with one another.
Many concepts were discussed throughout the session:
- Clients can join Zoom meetings from any location, including from the comfort of their own home. This concept, to a certain extent, may cause issues to arise such as additional people in the homes or technical difficulties. However, for the most part, all parties feel more comfortable during the meeting – there is no commute involved, and no new, unfamiliar environment to which they need to adapt.
- Clients are guided comprehensively by practitioners through every step of the online mediation process – they are prepared with instruction guides, given timings of each part of the meeting and explanations of concepts such as the virtual “waiting rooms”. In addition to their private Introductory Meeting, they are gently introduced to the Mediation Meeting with a virtual private “pre-meeting”, re-establishing the rapport between client and practitioner.
- As reading body language is not as easy over Zoom as it would be in person, there is more of a need for verbal cues while mediating online – both between practitioners themselves, and with clients. This strengthening of communication skills encourages verbalisation of thoughts, feelings and attitudes, giving clients more clarity that perhaps may not have been possible before.
From online mediation, we expect more client engagement during the meetings, as focused communication via video encourages practitioners to offer very high quality, captivating content and ideas. All parties of a meeting joining via a link are clearly willing to be there. This demonstrates their engagement in attending, just like in face-to-face meetings, leading to a high level of commitment and involvement in the conversation.
We have found the silver lining – the current situation has led to the discovery of opportunities in how Calm Mediation’s support for the community is provided. We are developing these to further strengthen the quality and flexibility of the services we offer our clients. If you currently mediate but haven’t tried facilitating meetings online, we would heartily recommend you giving it a go, it really works extraordinarily well!