Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Value of A Professional Study Group

Over the past couple of weeks, I've attended a couple of different study groups that have really enhanced my practice in small and large ways. The first, hosted by my colleague, Wendy Kramer through the Southern California Mediation Association, was a group of about a dozen mediators. We considered a difficult personality and a bind that one of our members had experienced in a mediation that had not yet been completed. The very next day, I found myself in a quandary about an issue of finalizing a settlement. I called Wendy and suggested the topic for our next monthly meeting. It was a great relief to be able to take that matter off my shoulders, anticipating wisdom, validation or consolation within a matter of weeks from some of my esteemed contemporaries. This past week, I attended an informal gathering of about 17 mediators and a few other professionals, at the home of my friend, Laurel Kaufer. There, we were guided in the art of the story by Stacie Chaiken, about whom I have previously posted (see the Blog about storytelling). I think Stacie has a certain dynamic genius, but more than that, it was again a rich opportunity to take our thinking and practice to a higher level, and our friendships to a deeper one. We all spend plenty of time attending events where clients or potential clients are, but often ignore our inner needs to enrich and unload our own triumphs and challenges amongst a group of professionals who understand them. It may not be a coincidence that the only images I could find on Google to depict study groups were Church groups. So my conclusion is that these groups have the potential, perhaps even promise, of restoring a mediator's soul. The redemption offered by your colleagues' validation or simple understanding is unrivaled. I am grateful to have become a part of each of these groups and urge you to begin one in your town or join in on an existing one. For your sake!

1 comment:

Neil said...

Another great post! I agree with what you say about storytelling. My thoughts are that as we tell our stories then we can better determine plot, voice and characters. Having done that, we can then challenge ourselves as to whether the plot and voice are really true, or constructed. How is our characterisation? Is it attractive or manipulative?

A study group can be invaluable in that it provides an audience who can receive our stories and feedback new perspectives.

Also, study groups do share the burden. I attend a church home group, or study group, and it provides such a safe haven in which to offload and share experiences and learning.

We are reminded that we are not independent individuals but that we all truly thrive within interdependent relationships... but that's probably an issue for another post!