As my business as a mediator begins to take off and I start to get more paying clients, I am aware of how much I still have to learn. It was ever thus. The twenty-five years I spent as an actor in the UK was a constant learning curve wherein I was fortunate to learn from the best at the time. The high point for me was sitting in the shade of a trailer in the middle of the Sahara Desert talking about light with the legendary lighting cameraman Vittorio Storraro. I soaked up his knowledge with a thirst that was equal to how parched I was in the middle of that desert.

When I became a continuation high school teacher and adjunct professor, I had to first learn what my choices were as a teacher so I went back to school and got my Master’s degree in Education. Having retired from the high school 16 years later and wanting to become a mediator, I took the requisite 40-hour course and then started to process of volunteering which to this day is the traditional mode of learning how to become a mediator if you aren’t already an attorney. Two years later, I’m still volunteering for three different organizations. I’m also finally earning money through my mediation business – Magnum Mediation.

There were brief learning stops along the way, like when I learned how to drive 18-wheelers in New York in the middle of winter. I went on to drive about 400 miles a day delivering groceries to grocery stores all over the north-east in the middle of Winter. I lasted four months and it became the only job I ever quit.

So I when I read an article in the latest edition of The Atlantic entitled Five Features of Better Arguments, by Conor Friedersdorf, it made me aware of how much more I still have to learn. Those five features are as follows:

  1. Take Winning off the table
  2. Prioritize Relationships and Listen Passionately
  3. Pay Attention to Context
  4. Embrace Vulnerability
  5. Be Open

You will have to read the full article to discover all the delicious details, but it is a must if you’re a mediator. I ask myself, when was the last time I ever ‘listened passionately?’ What does that even mean? Or when was I ever vulnerable during mediation, a quality I hope to encourage in my clients? Mr. Friedersdorf, on the quality of Be Open, goes on to quote Eric Liu, former speech writer for Bill Clinton, who explains “You cannot possibly change another person’s mind, if you’re not willing to have your own mind changed.” I’m willing. Are you?