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Ms. Amritya Singh (NLIU Bhopal) - On Preparing for Mediation Competitions

Ms. Amritya Singh has participated in the ICC International Commercial Mediation Competition conducted in Hong Kong in 2020 and in the International Mediation held in Singapore in 2019. She was the quarter-finalist at ICC International and a silver medalist at the International Mediation at Singapore.

What were the specific challenges that you faced during your preparation and how were they different from the ones at the actual negotiation round?

One of the main challenges we faced was coordination among teammates in a virtual environment. Our preparation was more or less theoretical, centred around understanding and grasping the problem and the interest of the parties. It is however equally important to execute your mediation strategy during the rounds which was challenging in the virtual format as you cannot exchange small cues amongst yourselves, and often tend to overlook non-verbal communication, that would have been in possible in a physical setting.

Choosing your partner is indeed an important decision. How did you start and how did you form a team dynamic and use the synergy to your benefit?

Having a good teammate is extremely important as the outcome of the session really depends on the team dynamic. Personally for me, I used to ask my friends to work with me as it is really important that the teammates understand each other and their personalities are complementary to one another. The differences and the similarities between the personalities should not work as a barrier rather make the negotiation work in a smooth flow.

Each team has their own way of approaching a negotiation. Please tell us something about your approach. Do you think it gives you an edge over other teams?

The approach that I have always undertaken is to breakdown the problem and brainstorm over it with my team members. This helps us to not only come up with creative solutions to the problem at hand, but also gauge where the other party’s interests lie.

Do you have any inspiration or tactic employed by the opposing team that you found useful?

Yes, I did find that involving the mediator to be an effective strategy that can help you score more. You often get caught up in putting across your points or listening to what the other party has to say, and in that process the mediator is often ignored. You can make the mediator your mirror and ask questions like “Mr. Mediator what progress have we made with regards to our agenda?” thereby engaging him in your discussion with the other party, during the course of the session.

We understand that the international mediation competitions provide you with an opportunity to negotiate and interact with a diverse set of people. How do you reconcile the cultural differences?

I think the shared passion and excitement about ADR amongst all the participants is something that easily helps us overcome the cultural differences. During the course of the rounds, it is pertinent that you respect this cultural difference and adapt yourself to it. Maintaining the pace of your speech is a simple tool of communication, but it proves to be especially beneficial when the parties come from different cultures. Outside of the competition, I think the difference in cultures of the people make for an interesting conversation.

Do you plan to pursue a career in the field of negotiation/mediation? How do you think it is perceived in the professional space?

I definitely am interested in the field of ADR and would want to pursue it in the future. But, the culture in India for mediation is not very promising as compared to what we see across the globe. The opportunities available in India are limited but with the growing prevalence of contractual and statutory stipulations related to mediating disputes, the field has garnered ground and acceptance.

Quite a few people think that extensive reading and academic engagement is important for a better understanding of the issues at hand. What do you think about it? Did you review any particular articles or books that helped you with your preparation?

Yes, reading is very important not only for your mediation skills but also for articulating your thoughts comprehensively. The book “Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher and William Ury really helped me in my preparation for the ICC Hong Kong competition. This book gave me clarity about the concepts and tactics of mediation and negotiation that I know today, it definitely was a game changer for me. Further, even though people think mediation competitions don’t require in-depth research, I think researching on the area of dispute involved in your problem is very important.

What does it take to win? What are your suggestions for those participating in such competitions for the first time?

Well, to be honest, I’m looking for an answer to that myself! The most important thing would be to enjoy yourself and have good team synergy, as competitions require long hours of preparations with the team and coordination amongst the members.

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