Did you miss Confessions of a 40-Hour Training Junkie (Part One)? Click here to read it first!
5. Clear your schedule.
Like marathons, 40 Hour Mediation Trainings (when done right) are intense, exhausting, all-consuming experiences that require serious focus and time. I learned the hard way how important it is to clear your professional and personal schedule as much as possible during the days of your training. During my first Training (Harvard’s Negotiation Course), I was literally in the middle of negotiating the sale of my law firm. As interesting (and occasionally helpful) as it was to be learning Negotiation from one of the authors of Getting to Yes during the most important negotiation of my life, I don’t recommend it! It was very distracting, and I had to leave class a few times to deal with it. Nor do I recommend taking a Mediation Training in the middle of your own divorce mediation (which I also did, during my second course at Harvard)!
With the sale of my business and my divorce behind me, I was able to focus and get more out of my trainings at Good Shepherd and Mosten Guthrie. While you won’t have control over when the Trainings are offered, and you can’t control when “Life Happens,” choosing a Training that you can take when you can have an otherwise clear plate can make an enormous difference to your overall experience.
6. Engage! With the material, your Trainers, and your Cohorts.
By the time you’re done with your 40 Hour Mediation Training you should be exhausted and exhilarated. No matter the cost, or how far you must travel to get there, the real investment you will make will be in the time and energy it takes to do the work and create enduring relationships with your Trainers and Cohorts. Do all the reading. Do all the homework. If possible, get a head start on all of that before the Training even begins. Most Trainings use fact patterns for simulations and role plays. The more time you spend learning the fact patterns beforehand, the more you will get out of the Trainings. In my experience, a good 40 Hour Training usually requires at least an hour or two of work outside of class for each day of the Training, so plan accordingly.
During the Training, remain engaged. Ask questions. Volunteer for exercises. Make it a point to be someone your Trainers and Cohorts remember fondly – someone who adds value to everyone’s experience. If all your Trainers and most of your Cohorts don’t know your name by the end of Hour 20, try harder to engage in the second 20 Hours. Set a goal to have at least one positive one-on-one interaction with all your Trainers and all your Cohorts by the end of the Training. Learn everyone’s name!
Because these experiences are more like marathons than sprints, it’s important to pace yourself and take good care of yourself during your Training days. That means getting enough sleep, eating right, and taking steps to keep yourself physically comfortable and mentally alert all day. Find out ahead of time whether you will need to bring your own food or snacks and what (if anything) they will have on hand for attendees. Donuts and cookies abound at many 40 Hour Trainings, so, if carbs make you sleepy, be sure to bring other types of snacks with you.
7. Take risks!
Whatever your reason for taking the Training, you are there because you want to become a better mediator. The only way to do that is to fail. A lot. Mediation is a beautiful combination craft, science, art, profession, ethic, sport, and trade. Nobody – not even your illustrious Trainer – was born a great mediator. They all became great by mediating a lot of conflicts, making a ton of mistakes, and by learning from others. The most valuable gift you can give yourself during those intense hours of training is to try out new things – techniques, voices, styles, approaches, strategies – that would be too risky to roll out for the first time in the field with real clients.
This might seem counterintuitive. You might think that the best use of your training time is to practice doing things the way you expect to do them in the field. I thought that too before my first Training, and I learned quickly that it’s a mistake. It’s a mistake because it presupposes that we already know what will work well for us and our clients. We don’t. Indeed, that’s why we need Training. If we ever want to be great mediators, we will need to learn new techniques, acquire new tools, and consider new perspectives and approaches. And the only way to do that is to try them on for size. There is no safer, more effective way to do that than during your Training.
8. Online or in person?
Before the pandemic, I never would have considered doing a 40 Hour Mediation Training online. I’m not even sure there were any such trainings before March 2020. It’s a different world now. The pandemic has totally transformed the world of mediation, creating an entirely new online reality for everyone in the profession, not only here in the United States, but all over the world. In this new reality, online Trainings are the norm, and in-person ones are hard to come by.
Of the four 40 Hour Mediation Trainings I took, only one of them (Mosten Guthrie, 2021) was online. I expect that the next one I take will also be online, and (though I can’t believe I’m saying this) I hope that it will be.
There is no doubt about it. What made the Harvard Mediation and Negotiation courses so amazing and worthwhile was getting to spend two whole weeks living, learning, eating, socializing, and training with extraordinarily bright and talented Peacemakers from all over the world. In my Negotiation class alone, there were people from more than 30 countries and probably a dozen states. I still have friends from those classes who live in Finland, Mexico, England, Australia, New Zealand, Lebanon, Canada, China, and elsewhere. Those experiences would not have been as rich had they taken place online.
But I was lucky. I got to take the Harvard trainings pre-CoVID – before the entire world of mediation was pushed online. Today, almost all mediations happen online, and that means we mediators must learn how to function in the online environment. And that means we absolutely MUST train online with people who are not only Master Mediators, but who have also mastered the ways of online mediation. And on this point, I have one very simple recommendation: Train with Susan Guthrie and Woody Mosten. They were not only among the best Trainers in the world pre-CoVID, but they have also absolutely mastered the practice of online mediating and training.
9. A word about cost.
The cost to attend a 40 Hour Mediation Training can vary a lot, depending on where it is, who is offering it, whether it is online or in person, and whether you must travel to attend it. The ones I took ranged from around $1,000 – $5,000. I believe the were all worth it, but it would be hard not to give the “Best Value” prize to Mosten Guthrie’s online Training, even though the Good Shepherd training was less expensive and in-person (and excellent!). To be fair, I had a free place to stay near Harvard Law School when I attended those Trainings, and I did not have to fly to get there. Many of my Cohorts had to spend considerably more to attend – especially those who flew in from other continents and stayed at hotels. Furthermore, now that these courses are being offered online, the cost to attend is considerably lower.
No matter what you spend, remember to consider the benefits you will derive from the experience, including the very real possibility of getting referrals and other future business opportunities that could offset or even cover the cost of the Training. I have spent almost $15,000 total on my four trainings, and I have made that back (and then some) when I consider the value of the referrals and other professional opportunities I have gotten from each of them. And how can I even begin to calculate the value of the wisdom, knowledge, perspective, life experience, feedback, friendship, and camaraderie my Cohorts, Trainers and I shared over those 160 hours? My negotiating partner at Harvard was a Lebanese man who lived his entire life in a war zone, and who used to sleep fully dressed in case he had to flee his home in the middle of the night. He taught me more about negotiation than any of my Trainers ever did. You can’t put a price tag on that.
10. Never stop training.
Being a Peacemaker is a lifelong journey with no attainable end. There is no Highest Level. There is no mountaintop. There is no finish line. To become great mediators, we can never stop learning, and that means we can never stop training, even when we become trainers ourselves. (Every trainer I’ve ever had has thanked us for teaching them something new). Intensive experiences like 40-Hour Mediation Trainings are marvelous opportunities to immerse ourselves in the hard work and beautiful craft of Peacemaking. I know of no better way to learn and grow as a mediator than to fully engage with Masters and fellow aspiring Peacemakers who have come together for the common purpose of learning from and with one another.
Josh Kershenbaum trained as a Mediator with Forrest (“Woody”) Mosten and Susan Guthrie of the Mosten Guthrie Academy, as well as at Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation. He is an attorney and former public school teacher with more than 20 years of experience working with families of children and adults with special needs. Prior to becoming a full-time Peacemaker, Josh founded a law firm dedicated to representing parents and children in a wide array of legal matters, with a focus on Special Education law. As a Mediator, Josh helps K-12 and Higher Education institutions, students, and professionals create enduring solutions to their conflicts without litigation. He also provides specialized mediation services to divorcing parents of children and adults with special needs. He is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, the Pennsylvania Council of Mediators, and the Collaborative Law Professionals of Southeast Pennsylvania. Josh received his J.D., cum laude, from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, where he has also served as an Adjunct Law Professor, and his B.A., magna cum laude, from Amherst College. He lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with his teenage son and two rescue kittens.