At the end of August, the CEDR (the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution) formally announced the appointment of six new mediators to its panel. Widely acknowledged and respected for their experience and knowledge, the Mediator Panel now consists of 142 mediators across 22 countries. But what is it that makes a good mediator?
In reality, no single type of person makes for a good mediator. But there are certain characteristic traits which could enable a person being to perhaps excel in mediation and pre-existing knowledge or skills may give a compelling edge. For example, those who have previously been exposed to ethical decisions, or situations where they were required to remain unbiased. Being calm under pressure and refraining from a personal viewpoint in order to see a wider picture, will definitely help. But let’s remember, mediation is a skill and as such, with application, it can be learnt by pretty much anyone.
Demand for Mediators
There is a growing demand for quality mediators – particularly in the commercial arena – which is good news for those keen to study mediation techniques. Figures from the latest CEDR Mediation Audit Report show a 20% growth in demand for mediation since 2016. So what skills does a mediator need? The new members of the CEDR panel are largely barristers and lawyers, but that’s not a precursor to being a good mediator. Often considered to be argumentative, tenacious and forthright in their views, a good mediator requires skills which are quite the opposite.
Good Mediator Skills
The role of a mediator is generally considered to be a calm, guiding force that is focussed on reparation for all parties. Other traits which make for a good mediator include:
A good mediator inspires trust. Mediation participants want confidentiality and reliability. Not only so that they can freely divulge perhaps personal information, but also so that the mediator can be relied on to remain impartial. This confidence will help build a relationship with the participants and ultimately help gain traction when moving forward in the process. Humility may plays a large role in this too. Recognising that no one person is infallible and acknowledging that every individual has flaws, plays a large part in gaining the trust of the parties involved. In contrast, a lack of trust could restrict discussions and hinder the progress of a mediation.
Remaining non-judgemental is a critical trait for a mediator. A mediator who shows sincerity and open mindedness is far more likely to encourage openness and cooperation from all those involved. Of course, mediation can sometimes be very intense. When participants are emotionally or financially distraught, ensuring complete impartiality is a prerequisite to being a good mediator. And although a mediator had no influence or sway in the outcome of a mediation, they must still be able to guide and encourage discussion without showing prejudice.
Mediation is an unknown quantity that can twist and turn through lots of different issues and opinions, particularly in family disputes relating to marriages, children and family inheritance. Although often less lengthy than formal court proceedings, the mediation process can still be time consuming and it requires a high level of patience. Intense emotions, years of history, lots of viewpoints and strong wills are commonplace in mediation.
A common trait of many professionals, persistence and dedication are likely to play a key factor in a mediators success. Ensuring a diligent approach to background preparations, displaying a determination to reach a positive outcome for all parties and encouraging participants to play an active role in a case, will no doubt improve the chances of finding a successful dispute resolution.
Being able to appreciate a point of view without showing prejudice can be a difficult skill to master and is closely linked to impartiality. Empathy however, focuses on the mediators ability to identify with the client’s thoughts and feelings – something that is often key to healing relationships and moving mediations toward a positive outcome. Listening carefully, showing respect and consideration for thoughts and feeling, and acknowledging individuals opinions will help enormously when gaining the trust of a client and showing empathy.
The less emotive trait of a good mediator is perceptiveness, being aware of a situation, the people, and the complexities and dynamics involved in it. This really goes hand in hand with being both logical and rational about a situation. Problem solving is a large part of a mediators role and while they cannot influence an outcome, being perceptive enough to think of logical conclusions that appease all parties, really is the aim of the game.