Book Notes on The Making of a Mediatior Developing Artistry in Practice



Book Notes on The Making of a Mediator Developing Artistry in Practice by Michael D. Lang and Alison Taylor: David Hubbard, Adjunct Faculty 


The Making of a Mediator: Developing Artistry in Practice (TMOAM) is a great resource for mediators seeking guidance and insight on their journey from a freshly minted newbie mediator to an unconsciously competent master mediator.  TMOAM a field guide for working towards what may seem like the elusive goal of obtaining artistry as a mediator.  Mediators grow professionally through the discipline of reflective practice and interactional process.  When mediators reflect on their mediation models, theories, knowledge and beliefs with the actions taken in mediation, and the subsequent results they can act with increased integrity, congruence, and transparency. This examination of ones theory, action, results feedback loop can dramatically improve a mediator skills, technique and understanding.  This book is an excellent resource for taking your mediation abilities, methods, skills and tools to a higher, more competent and resourceful level.


From the beginning the reader will find two compelling reasons to continue examining the book.  First, the book promotes no preferred model or style of mediation.  Regardless of whether you practice an interest-based, evaluative, narrative, transformative, or some other hybrid style of mediation, it does not matter.  The ideas of reflective practice and interactional process presented are universal and can be used with any model, orientation, style or theory of mediation to enhance a mediator’s growth and development.  


Secondly, a basic premise of the book is that through reflective practice any mediator can achieve artistry.  Artistry is not coincidence, a gift, luck, natural ability, or a destination but a journey.  A journey of deconstruction of what we do, what works, what does not, and assessing the interactions, timing and intensity of our interventions.  A journey of discovering congruence, convergence and integration of what we say our model and theories are with what our models and theories are in action.  Artistry is a journey of humility, mindfulness, self observation and reflection.  


The reader discovers the many benefits of reflective practice including:                    

  • a complexified understanding of conflict

  • a deeper and stronger foundation

  • a clearer understanding of the participants

  • improved assessments of the situation

  • enhanced self awareness

  • greater clarity of one’s beliefs, biases and values

  • a much larger tool box

  • more skills in using those tools

  • greater capability to make a helpful intervention at a critical moment

  • lifelong learning and growing in knowledge and skill

  • greater confidence in responding in the moment to complex dynamics


Lang and Taylor set out six hallmarks of reflective practice:

  • Attention to Detail: Responsive in the moment

  • Curiosity: Open to new perspectives

  • Exploration & Discovery: Not being bound by limiting assumptions

  • Developing and Testing Formulations: Holding tightly,  letting go lightly

  • Interpretation: Resilient and Flexible

  • Patience and Vision: Balance between process and outcome


The reader discovers the barriers to professional growth and artistry:

  • Being bound by limiting assumptions

  • Failure to take in new information

  • Avoidance or Inability to reflect on action in mediation and after the mediation

  • Fixation on outcome or thinking you know the solution

  • Caught in the trap of thinking “I am the expert”

  • Inattention to the parties

  • Mimicry

  • Inattention to process


Lang and Taylor include effective graphics that visually represent and explain ideas and concepts that help one engage in reflective practice on the path towards artistry.  The reader is given clear and, at times, repetitive counsel on how to discover and explore one’s own path towards artistry and the process of developing a reflective practice is clearly explained.  


To further support the mediator’s journey to artistry through reflective practice are the excellent exercises and questions for reflections throughout the book and at the end of each chapter.  Lang and Taylor encourage you to explore your unique constellation of theories and world view.  The mediator is guided by these questions and reflections to deconstruct what it is you think you know in order to develop a clearer understanding of your central core beliefs and values, theories and abstracts, models and approaches, facts and information.  With this book, some hard work, practice, and reflection in action and on action, you too, can experience the joy and flow of artistry.


Book Citation:  Michael D. Lang and Alison Taylor.  The Making of a Mediator: Developing Artistry in Practice.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000, 254 pp.



David A. Hubbard, J.D. 
Director of Facilitation and Training

David serves as the Director of Facilitation and Training at The Mediation Center.  He is an experienced attorney who, prior to joining the staff at The Mediation Center, practiced law for many years, was a business executive, as well as a private-practice mediator and facilitator.  In addition to his full-time position at the Center he serves as an adjunct undergraduate professor, adjunct faculty member at UNL College of Law, is approved as a local rule 4.3 mediator in Douglas County, and is approved as a federal mediator.  David’s mediation and facilitation skills have been refined through hundreds of hours of training through the likes of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, American Bar Association, and hundreds of mediations and facilitations.  David is a member of ASTD and an Executive Committee Member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution section of the Nebraska State Bar Association.


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Comment by Bryan Hanson on November 14, 2011 at 1:00pm

I was first introduced to this text by David Hubbard during a training he was giving and immediately ordered it for my library. The concepts introduced allow any conflict engagement specialist to reflect on the development of their practice, however, these concepts are easily applied and important within any profession. Thanks for sharing the insights from this book and reminding me of the importance of consistent reflective practice.

Comment by Jillian Post on November 14, 2011 at 2:32pm

Artistry.... I really like the use of that word in this context. It really is an art and must be practiced relentlessly at times to advance one's skills. I wish that I had laid down a better foundation in my ealier years so I could be farther along with the development of my skills in the field of conflict resolution, but alas, I have a lot of catching up to do. This book will help and will be on my "to buy" list.  Btw, I am not saying that life experience (or my life experience)  is not valuable to the field because it is, but I have so much to learn. Anyway....Thanks Dave!

Comment by Jeff Thompson on November 14, 2011 at 9:36pm



This sounds like a very good book.  I have always been an advocate of mediator's having a reflective practice to improve their ability to help people involved in conflict.


It's interesting to see mimicry listed as a barrier, as from a nonverbal communication perspective, it can happen naturally and can be a sign of rapport, empathy, immediacy.  Do you recall (or you Bryan), how it is explained?



Comment by Jillian Post on November 14, 2011 at 10:11pm


Hmmmm.... when I saw mimcry listed as a barrier, I thought the author may be referring to copying a mediation style and using it too often, as a panacea for all disputes. I am reading an article for my current class (NDR 717) where our own (Creighton's) illustrious Arthur Pearlstein quotes Professor John P. McCrory: "Versitility in the role of mediators is one of the sustaining features of the process, and the nature of the services provided should be dictated by the needs and desires of the parties, not philosophical preferences regarding styles of mediation" (Pearlstein, 2007). Perhaps this is one application of the term?




Pearlstein, A. (2007). Excerpts from The Justice Bazaar: Dispute Resolution through Emergent Private Ordering as a Superior Alternative to Authoritarian Court Bureaucracy [revised]. Retrieved from Creighton University, Program on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution. 


Comment by Jeff Thompson on November 21, 2011 at 8:48am

"Versitility in the role of mediators is one of the sustaining features of the process, and the nature of the services provided should be dictated by the needs and desires of the parties, not philosophical preferences regarding styles of mediation" (Pearlstein, 2007).



I think this is an important point raised by Arthur.  Additionally, I think this also raises the awareness (and difference) of the espoused theory and theory in use.  It is critical for a conflict resolution professional to have many tools available to them in order to assist each party in each situation that is uniquely different from the previous job.  


However, in reality (based on my experiences and those shared by others), I think it is also safe to say that professionals will also have their own style that transcends and continues across cases and jobs.  For example,  I cannot picture a transformative mediator all of a sudden becoming fully evaluative and offering options and solutions for the parties.


Back to mimicry- I think you hit the nail on the head as there are different interpretations.  This shows how there are different understandings and applications of the term and those differences can dictate it being beneficial or something that can hinder the process.  I think, from the nonverbal communication perspective, when it is used naturally it has a positive effect.

Comment by Jillian Post on November 21, 2011 at 12:30pm


Good points on both accounts.....(styles of mediation, and interpretation of terms :)


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