What do you find to be the most challenging or stressful aspect of your mediation practice and how do you manage it?

Building a new practice can be extremely stressful. Juggling different hats as a business owner, means having to manage the work that is comes in, but also making sure the practice continues to market itself, accounting and general business management skills are kept up with. It can be overwhelming to deal with as most mediators are not generally equipped with knowledge on how to run a business successfully. Managing all the various tasks can be tough. Staying organised in these situations is of utmost importance. Making lists with realistic time frames for completing the tasks helps me stay abreast.

Talking to like-minded professional connections and taking advice from my mentors is also very helpful to me.

Is there any particular activity that you engage in outside of practice that you find helps you unwind or otherwise supports your wellness as a mediator?

I am a very creative person. From oil painting, to cake decorating to jewellery making, my ultimate stress reliever is to create something artistic. It’s the only time I can truly switch off. I also live for small home renovation projects!

What aspect of mediating poses the greatest obstacles for your own health and well-being?  Do you have any strategies to manage this?

Mediating never poses obstacles for me. I find the entire process calming, which feeds my mental well-being. I find great satisfaction in providing my clients with a perspective they have not considered before.

One thing I will mention though, I am a social butterfly. Working as a mediator can often be lonely. In these situations, I find talking to someone from the profession and building meaningful relationships with other mediators and lawyers as well as having support from family and friends can be helpful.

Okay, one more thing…. Online Dispute Resolution – I am panicked to death in case I cut someone off or leave them in the wrong virtual break-out room – or even the waiting room! Could be very awkward – thank goodness it hasn’t happened yet!

Do you have any advice for fellow or aspiring mediators in terms of developing strategies to preserve good mental health?

Yes. Make sure you understand that success does not happen over-night. It will come, and managing your expectations is the best thing you can do. Staying positive is a vibe others will pick up on very easily. Positivity is an admirable quality to have and can even inspire others.

It’s always good to check in with your mentor to make sure you are staying on track. Having your positivity reinforced by family, friends and professional connections is very important too. One thing I like to do during the quiet periods is to put my mind into creative business development and marketing. Also, eat well, drink plenty and exercise lots.

Is there anything you do in preparing to mediate to safeguard your health and well-being?

I always have plenty of water with me and make sure I eat well.

I also remind myself that taking a pause is never a bad idea. If I feel an extra level of creativity is required in a particular case and I am stuck, with consent of all parties, I step away for a few minutes, which ultimately helps me gain better perspective. I think this is a healthy and helpful option to give ourselves. Some mediations can be intense and it is only human to feel overwhelmed at times. Taking a quick break to regroup my thoughts is not only helpful to me, but my clients too.

Have you ever experienced an action by a party mediating that posed a risk to your physical or mental well-being?  If so, what did you do to protect yourself?

There are times, in mediation, where I have felt unheard as the only female in the room. It can often lead to a power imbalance that I would prefer not to deal with. The best thing I do in those situations, is stick to my approach the best I can and rebalance the power equally in the room as the mediation progresses by working harder to make a connection with the clients and dealing with their issues in a manner that is respectful for both, the clients and myself.

Mediators often work with parties who have intense emotions that surface in the course of a mediation.  How do you do draw the line between empathizing and not letting yourself get caught up in emotion at the negotiation table?

I remind myself that this is not my problem to ‘feel’. It is my problem to help solve. That helps me to empathise with both parties and let them know that I fully understand the situation. This helps to make a better connection with the client and create a solution that they are truly happy with.

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To learn more about Afsana's practice, click here.

interview conducted December 2020