What to look for in a mediator
You have a dispute and you have read up on dispute resolution and opted for mediation, but how do you find the right mediator for you?
Are all mediators the same?
Answer – no of course not, one size does not fit all.
So how do you choose the right mediator for you?
In the above diagram, the inner circles show the essentials, what you can expect from all mediators.
The key skill is LISTENING, this is your dispute and the mediator has to be able to listen carefully to understand the issue from the perspective of both participants. Impartiality and confidentiality form part of the ‘contract’ between the client and mediator and there is no place for a mediator without integrity. Practicality is essential as the resolution unfolds. A mediator will ‘reality check’ the proposed agreement to make sure it is workable. An agreement of a £1000 per month debt repayment is not going to work if the participant has no access to such funds!
The outer circle shows desirables or the ‘X’ factors. What is going to make you feel most comfortable, this person is going to be asking some searching questions.
What is personable will be different for everyone but an empathic mediator will quickly determine what will make the participants feel comfortable. Many people prefer very formal business like communication, others might find that intimidating. If I had to describe what empathy is, I would say that instead of listening to words it is ‘hearing feelings’.
Working collaboratively, breaks down barriers, together ‘We’ will find a way to resolve the dispute. Creativity is part of this, the mediator needs to ask the questions that have not been asked before. The answers may provide the nugget of information on where the common ground may lie.
Authoritive may sound at odds with this but everyone involved in the dispute needs to feel safe, especially in joint rooms where the participants are both present. This requires a mediator to prevent imbalances of power continuing within the mediation and to know when to split the session into separate rooms.
Mediator engagement is essential lest your mediator loses focus as the day wears on. Mediation, whilst a faster process than a court may feel like more of a marathon than a sprint on the day.
So, when looking for a mediator consider the points above and take time to talk to your mediator before you appoint them. This will benefit your experience on the day and help to achieve the outcome you need.