Learning the Tools of Mediation Through Role-Playing
By Victoria Carter
The ability to listen compassionately and to gauge emotional climate are among the chief prerequisites for a successful mediator, according to Ann Sullivan and Monique Bleriot. As an alternative to litigation or in a variety of workplace and personal interactions, mediation can help resolve conflict.
Monique Bleriot is an experienced registered nurse with more than 30 years in the fields of mental, community, public and geriatric health care. She has a master’s degree in nursing from Regis College and a master’s in conflict resolution from the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Ann Sullivan graduated from Northeastern University School of Law and practiced administrative law and civil litigation. She pursued mediation training at Cambridge Dispute Settlement Centers and at Harvard Law School. She received specialized training in family law, elder issues and the use of Internal Family Systems in mediation.
In 2009, Ann began a private practice in Arlington, and in 2016, she partnered with Monique to form Mediation for Elders in Transition, which provides mediation services for elders and their families during life transitions. Both volunteer as mediators for the Community Dispute Settlement Center in Cambridge.
Ann and Monique talk here about their upcoming PDC course, “Essentials of Mediation.”
Q: What makes your seminar different from other ways of learning about this topic?
Ann Sullivan and Monique Bleriot: A person can learn about mediation by reading about it and by watching other people mediate. What makes this seminar different is the use of role play in which participants can experience mediation for themselves.
Q: Who will benefit from your seminar?
Ann and Monique: Anyone who is interested in using new skills to resolve conflict in their work or in making a shift in their professional role, including business professionals, human resource specialists, educators, mental health clinicians, attorneys, paralegals, human resource specialists.
Q: What will you cover in your course for the PDC?
Ann and Monique: We will describe the three major types of mediation and when to use each. Participants will experience role play situations that will help you resolve conflicts. They will gain knowledge of mediation’s core principles: neutrality, confidentiality, voluntary participation, informed consent and self-determination. We will cover mediation’s basic tools, including active listening, mindfulness, dealing with difficult people. We will describe the requirements to become a mediator in Massachusetts.
Q: What in your background and training has helped you develop your class “Essentials of Mediation”?
Ann: My training and experience as a lawyer and as a mediator; many mediation trainings and particularly those that involved role play; collaboration with other mediators; practicing mediation in a variety of contexts, including the courts, administrative agencies and private sessions for over 25 years; my (mindfulness) meditation practice and being a middle child.
Monique: My training as a registered nurse working with patients and their families, and dealing with conflict in the workplace. Mediation training was part of my master’s program in conflict resolution at UMass Boston.
Q: Is there a story of mediation success that you would like to share with our readers?
Monique: As a student mediator while at UMass Boston, I mediated between two friends who had had a falling out. One of the friends accused the other of stealing from her and wanted to be compensated for her loss. After mediating for over an hour, the woman who claimed to have had items stolen from her broke down and said that she really missed their friendship and could they be friends again? The other woman denied having stolen anything, and said that she missed their friendship too. They ended up hugging and crying, and their friendship was restored.
Ann: I recently mediated a divorce in which the wife felt totally betrayed by her husband. In the first session, she could barely look at him and spent most of the session venting while he sat silently and very uncomfortably. At a point during a subsequent session, the wife was able to make a shift from focusing on her anger to focusing on what was in her children’s best interest post-divorce. By the end of their mediation, the couple, who had known each other since they were teenagers, were relating to each other more like old friends than like adversaries.
Q: Could you describe yourself in a few sentences?
Monique: I find working with families in transition to be a pleasure and a challenge that I welcome. My own personal experience with an aging parent has given me a depth and breadth of understanding of the many facets of long-term planning. I enjoy helping elders and their families make the sometimes-difficult transition to another stage of the elder’s life.
“Essentials of Mediation” will be taught on Friday, Nov. 10, from 9 a.m. to noon, at the Residence Inn by Marriott, 570 Arsenal St., Watertown. Cost is $70 including $6 for materials. For information or to register, visit pdcboston.org.
Victoria Carter, after a career as an actuary, is reinventing herself as an economic evaluator of social programs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: This interview, conducted by email, has been edited and condensed for clarity.