Planting the Seeds of Mediation. Member Spotlight: Andrea O’Neill 

Joining MBBI is a privilege for me because it allows a connection, to see what other mediators are doing around the world. It allows me to be part of a change and to contribute in many different areas”. 

Background

Andrea comes from a background in business and took her first step into mediation while helping a friend who was training as a career coach. It was during these coaching sessions that Andrea discovered and understood her desire to connect with and help people who are in conflict. This discovery about herself led her to undertake a one-year diploma program at Maynooth University in mediation. Andrea described her initial studies of mediation as transformational. Coupled with skills, and techniques to address conflict,  Andrea viewed conflict in a more positive way, she noticed a change in her relationships both personal and professional.  This experience led her to undertake a master’s degree in Mediation and conflict resolution at the same university. She wrote her master’s thesis about personal transformation in the mediation and conflict intervention learning environment. Her main objective was to know if studying mediation and conflict resolution had the same effect on other students in similar learning environments. An article on her thesis was published this year at this site: http://ojs.maynoothuniversity.ie/ojs/index.php/jmaca/article/view/60

Andrea used her findings, knowledge, and experience to work with families, workplaces, and other organizations. She went on to develop a six-week program for families that incorporates skills, education, and mediation to help them move away from chronic conflict. In Andrea’s own words: Through mediation, you learn how to listen to someone, there’s a connection with another human being that you can’t get any other way. And when that connection is made, the relationship can’t ever be the same again”.

Current Work

Most of Andrea’s work is around families with teenagers or couples who are separating, looking at everyone’s own values and using reflective practices with the participants. She noticed that mediation was quite fruitful, especially when there is a shift in boundaries or significant changes in the everyday environment. She also helps with community disputes or workplace difficulties: Wherever I can spread the seeds of mediation and conflict resolution I am happy to go there. I haven’t saved the world, but I suppose I plant the seeds of mediation wherever I go, hoping that this little seed will have a ripple effect”. Andrea also connects the whole process of mediation to neuroscience whenever she can, looking at the brain’s development and not only focusing on the conflict and the emotions around it. 

Andrea attended different webinars about this topic during the pandemic and also did some book reviews on mediation. This led her to meet Kenneth Cloke, a founding member of Mediators Beyond Borders International. They worked together using the Mediator’s Institute of Ireland platform to host a webinar for mediators in Ukraine. The objective was to provide a safe space for them to share their story with other mediators around the globe, and to gather support for their humanitarian efforts on the ground in Ukraine. As a result, the Ukrainian mediators were introduced to a whole new network of mediators and were able to avail of some of the trauma training MBBI offers. Thanks to this project and Kenneth, Andrea was introduced to the MBBI community that she joined recently. 

Advice to New Mediatiors

Andrea decided to give up her previous work to focus on her passion: mediation. But she emphasizes that choosing to make your living out of mediation can be a big step. Therefore, she advises anyone on the way to becoming a mediator not to give up because it takes some time to settle in, and gain experience. Andrea also suggests that getting into a sharing and learning group is a must! This way, new mediators can learn from their peers and other new mediators around them. On a final note “mediate from the heart”

Article by Sarah Vorms, MBBI Writer