The Value of Diverse Community. Member Spotlight: Eleane Amador

“To be a mediator you do not have to study law, you can come from all different ways of life and still be an excellent mediator. That is what I like, it is the multidisciplinary interconnectedness of the mediation community”

Logic and Emotions

Eleane is a mediator in the early stages of their career and currently works for an immigration firm in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. They have been interested in mediation for the last 3 years, and their journey started when they completed the paralegal program at a local college. Learning about ADR was a part of the program, but it was more focused on litigation-style arguments which Eleane is not really interested in. Looking for better ways of solving problems, they started looking more into mediation and obtained a certificate in family law mediation in the summer of 2023. Growing up, Eleane was very interested in computers, they completed a certificate in IT as a part of their university degree, and on the side is working as a web designer. Since logic is really close to their heart, but they are also a person who needs emotions, they wanted to find something that existed at the crossroads of those two areas. They completed an accelerated program, and thanks to that found out mediation is exactly what they want to do. “I understand that a lot of people have to use emotions while solving problems,” Eleane says, “you cannot separate it and have a pure mathematical equation to solve the problem. That never works for everyone and is also not authentic.” In their opinion, mediation allows us to use logic but also be very creative, in a way that we can interpret the way that people are feeling, and what the possible solutions are. “I never really found that in programming computers or interpreting the law. That is how my professional start in mediation came.”

Eleane is also the oldest daughter in a family of 4 children, their parents are refugees, and the family comes from Nicaragua. In families from the Latin culture, there is a lot of pressure put on the oldest daughter, thus Eleane is basically a sister as well as a mother to their 3 younger siblings, and they often had to solve their problems. Seeing how people raised in the same environment can also see the world so differently, added great value to their mediation skills, and also shows how much perspective change even when people are in a controlled environment. Each person brings their own experiences and fears to the table, and mediators have to try to manage those. Eleane speaks 3 languages: English, Spanish, and French, but as they say even knowing those 3 languages and the different words we can use to communicate, also influences the way that they understand people. “You may choose a word, and there may not be a perfect word in another language to express how you feel. I find that a lot when I deal with my clients at immigration. They want to seem professional, but really there is a lot of anxiety, fear lying beneath, they do not necessarily know how to communicate that but you can feel it in the words that they choose” they explain. Having the hyper-awareness of the way that people communicate is something that Eleane wants to explore a little bit more as a strength and see how to use it to their advantage in the future.

Communication and Community

Although their experience is mostly related to families, Eleane plans to expand to other people in the future. They are looking for opportunities for growth in this profession, through working with members of Mediators Beyond Borders International. Eleane found out about the organization through a course at York University. One of my professors encouraged us to go look around because mediation is one of those hidden careers, at least in Ontario Canada,” they say, “unless you know these very specialized programs or dealing with the law, no one really talks about how it could look like. Our professor encouraged us to see what we could do as mediators, that we do not have to be stuck working at the court, having a private mediation practice, that we could branch out and do more.” When Eleane looked at some of the foundations of the MBBI, they saw a future for themself. They admit to sometimes feeling constrained by where they live. In their city, people are very involved in municipal politics and labor relations, but they do not really see an application of mediation outside of labor relations or family court, and that does everyone a disservice if they are not thinking of law and justice outside of going to court and fighting each other. Eleane thinks the future of human relations has to do with us being able to solve problems without necessarily involving the government. Knowing how to communicate with each other authentically can really open people’s eyes to more possibilities. They were really impressed that there was already an organization doing that work and that there are so many working groups and levels of collaboration. That is something that was missing from their education in law, the collaborative pieces of being with people who have different experiences and come from different backgrounds. Eleane thinks now is the time to commit themself to one of the working groups. They are passionate about women and children, so the working groups relating to stopping gender violence really speak to them. “I was a research assistant for a program where we taught self-defense and healthy relationship styles to university-age women. That was one of the most meaningful works that I have done and if I can bring that experience into MBBI that would make me happy, would be a great application of my skills, and an opportunity to give something back to the community” they add.

Pros and Cons of Technology

Speaking about their greatest achievements, Eleane mentions work for the Sexual Assault Resistance Education Centre – SARE Centre, as a facilitator for a program created by Dr. Charlene Senn EAAA – Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act, and research assistant for an adaptation of this program. The original program is for women between the age of 18-26, the adaptation is for girls aged 14-17, and there are efforts to adapt the program even further for younger girls, and smaller communities such as trans and non-binary. The main part of the research was to find out if the program could work over the Internet, or if it is as effective in small groups of 20 people. Eleane says that it was a very wild ride and taught them that although people have high hopes for the future of working remotely and collaborating with people all over the world, there is something to be said about how it feels to be in the room with people who are there for the same purpose. Certainly, it opened a lot of doors for accessibility, and we should never take that away, we learned through the pandemic about how easy it is to work outside of their regular office environment, and how necessary it is to keep those options, but also about what the limitations of the technology are currently and how hard it is to communicate authentically over the internet sometimes. “As I grow as a mediator I want to figure out how to serve clients who might not be able to come into the physical space, and how I can still make them comfortable even if I am not in the same room,” Eleane says and notes that there are also safety issues around being in a room with someone, not knowing what is outside of the camera square. “Someone else could be in the room, when you are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, how do I know if you are the only person in the room? How do put safety measures? How to feel like a community? Communication is not only what people say but also body language, during an online meeting does your body language have to be more exaggerated? These are the questions I have for mediation in the future.” Technology is only as intelligent as a person who programmed it, and there is a lot of bias that can be translated into technology that people do not often talk about, but there is also the idea of things happening in a black box – we cannot see what is in the black box. What kind of uncertainty does that bring to people who are in the mediation process, who already have a lot of uncertainty in their lives and have come to us to help solve the problem? Eleane thinks it is going to be a big obstacle for us, mediators.

Representation Matters

As someone who identifies as queer and non-binary, Eleane draws attention to the fact that in America there are a lot of conversations happening about the dangers of people who fall under the spectrum of the queer or LGBTQIA, who are expressing their gender in a way that other people will not. This is dangerous. Eleane thinks that if we as mediators fall into the trap of limiting ourselves to thinking within the binary of male and female, especially talking to people around the world, who certainly do not have the same views about gender norms, we are also limiting the ways that we can solve problems in. Queer and trans people have always existed, and continue to survive and thrive despite other people trying to limit the way they express themselves, at the end of the day trying to kill them. They are still here, still doing amazing work, and deserve the same opportunities as anyone to help solve these larger issues in our world. Eleane is really hopeful about being part of MBBI and sees so many growth possibilities because it is such a place for embracing our differences and collaborating with people of all kinds of backgrounds. Even just communicating between different regions and time zones says so much about what we can do together, when we are willing to be there for each other, even through minor scheduling situations. It could mean very big implications for people who are in danger or do not know how to solve the largest problems of their lives.

“Queer and trans, indigenous, non-white people, have always been problem solvers and have always found a way to survive in the most hostile conditions. I think that is something that we should fully embrace in mediation practice. Having people of all genders, and all kinds of experiences, whether academic or none, because nothing can compare to the living experience of someone who has never thought that they have fit in due to discrimination, prejudice, and hostility. I just think this very important message for people across the organization.”

Article by Maciej Witek, MBBI Writer