By definition reflection means: “an image of something in a mirror or on any reflective surface” and “serious and careful thought”. Ok, that makes sense, but what’s the connection to mediation? Well to be honest reflection is an important tool for mediators to use for themselves but also for people in mediation so they may grow and move forward.
In my opinion, in connection to mediation, reflection is fundamentally a process where you stop and take a step back and think back on a situation, event or your current reality. When you step back, what do you see? Is there something you could have done differently? How does it look from an ‘outsider’ perspective? After every mediation session I reflect on how it went, and I ask myself difficult questions – Did I do my best? Could I have done anything differently? Did I provide a safe, balanced environment where everyone felt free to speak honestly?
I learn something new every time I reflect on a mediation and whatever I learn, I strive to include in my practice going forward. Frankly, there are times where I have reflected that I could have done something differently or I could have asked a different question. Reflecting is not meant to be a mean exercise where I list all my mistakes, but rather it is a practice of seeing opportunities for growth. So not what did I do wrong, but what could I do differently next time. When reflecting, it’s key not to use the word ‘should’. “Shoulds” are often coupled with feelings of shame and negativity, so I refrain from saying that I should have asked different questions. I personally find that if I include ‘shoulds’ it fosters negative feelings and is not productive to moving forward. So, I stick with ‘coulds’ or ‘next time’ or ‘I wonder what the outcome would be if I did this or that’ which feels more progressive, and I can see it helping me move forward.
I would encourage anyone wanting to enter into mediation to practice reflection after each session. After the session ask yourself, ‘did I voice what needed to be said?’, ‘did I truly go into mediation with an open mind?’, ‘during the session did I remain open to listening?’, ‘am I still too angry at the other person to be willing to compromise?’, or any other question that comes to mind.
Doing this reflection exercise right after your session may enlighten you on what you might want to do differently the next session. Maybe you will notice that you could have been listening to a bit more than hearing what the other person said, or maybe you noticed that you got clarification on something that helped ease your frustration. Whatever it is you noticed, write it down and review it before your next session. I would even encourage you to share it with me, one-on-one, where we can discuss your individual needs and how you can obtain what you have identified through your reflection in upcoming sessions.
Just like how reflection helps me grow as a mediator, reflection helps clients grow and move forward because it makes you remove yourself from the situation and look back at it from an outsider’s perspective. It also can challenge you to ask yourself some tough questions and give you an opportunity to answer honestly. Sometimes reflection is like a splash of cold water that helps you to see yourself now from a different perspective. Circling back to the definition at the start, reflection really does require some serious and careful thought so that you can see that mirrored reflection of yourself. However, you practice reflection, it is a great tool in your self-care toolkit, to support your growth and in moving forward.