OK I’ll admit it, on occasion I’ll Google myself…come on you do this , admit it…don’t you??!! Anyway, recently I stumbled upon this in depth and really interesting article by mediation expert Sharon Sutherland who is using the Bots to help teach mediation, I can’t sit still for even a minute so I was fascinated to see an in depth break-down of several Bot types and how they help people mediate: Below is an excerpt of from Sharon Sutherland’s Meditation Bots, click here to read the full article
The Listening Bot’s instructions tell you that the Bot has been programmed to listen to you without interruption, but for mediations I don’t share these instructions with participants. The Listening Bot box says enough – this Bot is for Listening, and for my purposes is programmed to model listening and to help parties listen carefully and without interrupting. This is the one Bot that I own multiples of since there’s usually more than one person who needs to be listening, although I expect that it would be quite possible to utilize a single Listening Bot as the opposite of a talking stick (or perhaps in conjunction with one?).
The Zen Bot is a wonderful mood setter. When everyone needs a break to regroup, the Zen Bot takes up its position in the centre of the table. Alternatively, the Zen Bot can certainly be shared with a single participant in a caucus to help find enough calm to rejoin a difficult conversation.
The Yes Bot is a tricky creature to use in a mediation, but opens the door to discussions of the improviser’s understanding of “Yes, and…” as it applies to listening in conflict. The Yes Bot is programmed to offer unconditional permission, which does not necessarily translate directly when working with parties in conflict. The idea of accepting an offer in the improvisational sense, however, can be an interesting discussion in mediation that may lead to greater willingness to engage in problem solving. If we “accept” what the other person is saying, and that they believe it – even when we have an entirely opposed view of the situation – we create the potential for future-focused discussion and can move away from our tendency to listen only to rebut.
Given that a discussion of “Yes, and…” deserves a great deal more development than is possible within this post, I’ll simply flag the incredible usefulness of the Yes Bot, and promise a full blog post on Accepting Offers in the new year.
The Brave Bot certainly offers the learning mediator support in being brave enough to ask difficult questions. Mediating itself feels remarkably risky when you are gaining experience, and, of course, one’s growth as a mediator depends on one’s willingness to risk learning new skills and using them. Within a mediation in which the Bots had been introduced, I’ve used the Brave Bot to tell a participant that I am finding it difficult to raise a challenging subject matter with them, but feel that we need to discuss it before we can continue. The use of the Brave Bot in that instance was simply a means of being as transparent as possible about the difficult nature of the topic. Brave Bots can certainly be provided to parties as well – likely in caucus – to encourage discussion or support participation in a difficult setting. And Brave Bots can be a means to encourage and solicit the voice of the child in a mediation.
The Time Bot has helpfully been programmed to “Stop Time” which allows you to “erase the evidence of [a] mistake or repeat an amazing moment over and over again”. I like the idea of a “do over” or “mulligan” that the Time Bot permits for mediators and parties alike. I’ve often shared with learning mediators Tom Northcott‘s wonderful advice when he was mentoring in the Court Mediation Program that “there are no mistakes in mediation, just great recoveries”: the Time Bot offers a wonderful tool for this recovery! ”Let’s just wind that back and start again…” Similarly, the chance to repeat great moments fits well with the mediator’s efforts to underline points of agreement when possible.
The Decision Bot has been programmed to help one decide. While not everyone will want or appreciate a point of focus for decision-making, once a few of the other Bots are out in a mediation, this one may just appeal to a person trying to balance possibilities.
An impasse-breaking tool if there ever was one, the Inspiration Bot can facilitate brainstorming, inspire the generation of lots of ideas, and act as a pattern interrupt as the mediator asks parties to transition from a storytelling, past-focused discussion of what happened to a future-focused discussion of what can be done now.
The Caffeine Bot offers everyone a boost when needed, and can act like an Inspiration Bot for tired folks who need to perk up!