Simon has a multi-disciplinary diverse background, which entails an enriched mediation journey and expertise. He began in the field of electronic engineering, then wanting to extend his accreditations he retrained and became a certified Professional Behavioral Analyst, personal coach, a master practitioner in neuron linguistic programming, and psychotherapist. He started to work to improve culture with companies. “because I was in there, I started to understand what made organizations or cultures tick, so people started to use me more for conflict situations. Back in Australia in the 80s, there was not really a big drive for mediation. Though we are renowned for mediation now, especially in corporate, this was lacking which led me to go overseas including the US, Europe, and South East Asia and do work in the corporate section.”  Simons’ work is mainly in with corporate boards and working with directors and executives. He stated, “when a corporation has a need for mediation it is not normally just one issue, there are a whole lot of issues that are underlining and driving the culture, it could be multiple matters. Thus, I would get involved with negotiation as well.”   

Simon’s Philosophy and Mindset in Mediation

Simon’s philosophy in mediation is a combination of empowering people and helping them see possible solutions or alternatives to particular disputes. He enjoys the “aha” moments in the mediation process that helps people understand possible avenues for an issue or issues in general. In his Master’s in management and conflict resolution, he has been able to gain key insights and training in the field of restorative justice and group conferencing. In his past experiences mediating conflicts in multiple contexts within boards, he stressed the importance of balance. 

He stated, “people are people and they all want the same thing but dynamically they are different based on their cultural differences. You have to very open to learning about how their culture is driving them, so you can get them to the table. In fact, whatever the dispute is or was, this was irrelevant because the drivers actually come from the cultural side. This was a dynamic shift for me because I had to really learn people at the grassroots level.” This included information on their family dynamics and other parts of the person’s identity to understand the root of the conflict much more closely. There are conflicts that can last months or years due to their complexity. 

A Mediation Toolkit 

Simon finds behavior as a key instrument to mediation. He stated, “I am always looking at behavior. I look at people and how they interact. It is subconscious for me now. Typically, I mimic people’s behavior so they feel the rapport is built and you can foster communication. Behavior is about understanding how they communicate.” However, sometimes mediation overlooks this. In fact, he stated, “if people pick up on people skills more than just the process, they can imbed themselves quicker because people then feel comfortable with them. We have fantastic formulas and processes for mediation, and sometimes don’t allow our ability to not be strong communicators in some of the interactions. If you could enhance on top of that, it will give you an ability to deal with multiple cultures. He went on to state that overall, he enjoys working with people including family systems.  Through his expertise, he is able to enhance communication among two or multiple parties. He finds this a challenge that he enjoys taking on with the goal of empowering both parties. His training in restorative justice and neuron linguistic programming trainings set a framework to enhance this level of communication. 

Finding a Niche in Mediation

He stated, “I started to learn behavior early on in my career and love people.” This motivated him to pursue the field of mediation much deeply and pursue graduate school in this field as well. As part of his Master’s program, he wrote a paper on how to use group conferences to assist in virtual meetings. It is challenging to notice un-noticed behavior; thus, he has been working on improving this in the cooperate context. Currently, he is running a strategy workgroup for the MBBI Oceania Regional Group in collaboration with the MBBO Board members. Claire Holland, the director of his academic course, mentioned the Bali Congress through Mediators Beyond Borders (MBBI). Thus, he attended the Congress and made wonderful connections, which sparked collaboration on mediation efforts academically such as writing a couple of chapters on cross mediation. 

Simon sees many personal and professional projects take off and gain greater momentum this year, and in this process, he stressed finding value in mentoring others. He stated, “I enjoy people passing me on the ladder of life, I think that is the greatest reward. If there is a good group of people, I enjoy working with them. If a mentor has not been properly self-reflecting on the positives and negatives of their area, then they will probably transfer both of these energies onto their students. Therefore, one must be careful. Nonetheless, mentors overall duplicate whatever you are doing rapidly.”

Research and Mediation

“Pracademics” was what attracted him to pursue graduate school. Being able to learn from academics that were also practitioners was enriching to his learning and practice. He stated, “I think mediation is an underquoted word. There is this whole band of people that fit under the ‘mediation’ terminology and really what we do is help people resolve issues and as long as you are doing it for the right moral reasons, it does not matter what you are called. We do this at home for our sisters and brothers and there are mediators all over the world, we are just employed to do that, and have experience, knowledge, processes, and accreditation, but there could be more synergy between the academic world.” Thus, there are mediators that are also excluded who are not connected to academia, which could use more collaboration.   

Young Mediators and Trust

In all these contexts, it is important to remember trust. He said, “you cannot mediate if there is not trust. We are like translators. We bring people together. There are people who live in their worlds with their own conflict languages (e.g. what is in it for them) and what we do is translate that from one person to the other and that is trust. “He stressed that if you cannot get trust in the relationship, then it can become really challenging. Therefore, at this point, it is not fair to bring in multiple parties because the foundation is lacking. He stated, “for young mediators, if I could say something to them, is to not feel like you have to mediate if you do not believe you can help, and it is ok. People feel like they have to mediate but sometimes, the mediator might not be right for that particular situation.”  He further stressed the importance of not mediating just for the sake of mediating but finding the person with the training, background, and rapport to facilitate it correctly. 

Mediation now and the future

In any mediation, Simon stressed, Mediation has a common language because it brings people together, but it has to come from understand the cultures that you are dealing with.” Even with technology, we lose parts of culture and non-verbal communication therefore, mediation becomes even more significant from all angles. As we move forward, mediation will become complex, but the solution will end up being simple if the core fundamentals are kept at the center of mediation. 

Article by Elizabeth Gamarra, MBBI Writer