It was the end of a busy
week, I pressed send on the final email of the day and logged off the computer
breathing a huge sigh of relief. As I
reflected on a week that had been packed with mediation, coaching and restorative
justice sessions, I recognised how rewarding and on occasion extremely
frustrating, my work in the community can be.
What struck me most, was
there had been a common theme to my frustration this week and that was clients
not attending sessions that they had confirmed after receiving reminders
regarding their appointments. As I thought more deeply about it, I considered
how this affected the principles that were the cornerstone of my profession -
being impartial and non-judgemental. Had this affected my practice?
Where should I start? The beginning is always a good place of course. It began with a restorative conference we had arranged. Having undertaken initial individual sessions with the clients involved, to listen and prepare them for what lay ahead, we then coordinated a meeting date and time that was convenient for everyone and sourced a suitable venue based on this. We were quietly confident that all the hard work we had put in would result in the positive outcome that the parties were looking to achieve.
The day of the conference came and as we arrived at the venue we were joined by a professional from one of the agencies involved in the case. The person that had caused the harm in the case had arrived along with his support. A police officer that had been involved in the incident was waiting in the meeting room. We all joined him awaiting the arrival of the person that had been harmed. We waited. And we waited and still no sign. I excused myself and put a call through to him, only to reach his voicemail.
I recollect the sense of
frustration I felt at that moment and had to ask myself, was it with the person
who had not picked up the phone and arrived at the venue as promised, or was it
that all the hard work I had put in coordinating everyone’s availability and
finding a suitable venue for the conference had all been in vain? On reflection it
was a mix of all of those things, difficult to pinpoint one particular element.
However, the real question was how did that frustration affect me in my role as
a facilitator of the planned meeting and did the frustration come through when
I left my voicemail message for the client, or how I conducted myself on
re-entering the meeting room to inform everyone that the meeting would not now
A new day and new dawn came, along with it a sense of optimism that went with sunshine. I set out on my travels to see my next client for a conflict coaching session. I pondered on how engagement had been difficult for them initially. The referring officer had provided information that suggested the client had particular complex needs and therefore led quite a chaotic lifestyle. The case had the potential to be challenging but despite that, I was looking forward to meeting and working with them. The client had requested that we meet at a neutral venue and I arrived in plenty of time before the start of the session. Whilst waiting in the reception area, I took a moment to review the referral and consider the best approach in supporting this particular client.
As I contemplated my approach to the session, I realised my client was now ten minutes late. On reflection I realised that I had already jumped to a conclusion that they were inconsiderate and disorganised. I was shocked how quickly my narrative had become negative and how I had judged them based on what I had read. I quickly recognised the error of my ways and considered there may be other reasons for my client not arriving. When I contemplated the alternatives, it was easy to see what I needed to do to challenge the narrative I had told myself and my feelings relating to that. I called the client, reached her voicemail and left a message explaining that I was concerned that as it was past the agreed meeting time and I wanted to check she was okay.
The following day I was off on my travels once again to visit a client that was in dispute with her neighbour. I arrived early and parked my car a little away from her property. I decided to check my email and make a call as I was waiting for the start of the appointment. As my call drew to an end, I checked my watch, time to go. As I headed up the path and knocked on the door, all seemed suspiciously quiet. Hmm, not again! I thought. I knocked again, a little louder. Still no response, where were they? Reflecting in action, I recognised the negative thoughts returning. I consciously pushed them to the back of my mind and made my way back to my car. I decided to wait for a while in case my client was running a little late. I considered that although I was a mediator, I was first and foremost a human being and as such, made assumptions about situations without having the facts available to me and how this usually leads us to the wrong conclusions. I picked up my phone, called my client and left a message regarding rearranging our appointment.
My frustrating few days resulted in the person that had been harmed who had agreed to resolve the situation by attending a restorative conference calling the next day full of apologies for his confusion regarding the meeting date and was keen to rearrange. The coaching client sent a text message later in the day of the scheduled appointment to say they had health issues and apologised profusely for my inconvenience. And as for the neighbour, I’m still awaiting a response to my message, but I’m endeavouring in my quest to consider there may be a variety of possibilities and not to jump to conclusions and make a judgement about a situation.
My reflection on my practice this week has been particularly valuable to me and that is that my own judgements can creep up on me if I do not practise self-awareness. Doing this can assist me in altering any negative narrative I may be formulating, which will have a positive impact on my behaviour and the choices and decisions I make. Yes, it had been a frustrating week, but it had also been packed with productive and rewarding experiences and opportunities for learning.
My week had given me lots to take along to my next supervision session and focused me on the importance of reflection on action and developing my ability to reflect in action in my work.