With all of the success of mediation across a wide variety of sectors in recent years, it’s important to remember that mediators aren’t miracle workers, nor do they have x-ray vision.
Very often, in fact, they won’t get told about all aspects of the dispute, either because details have been left out by the parties, or because they have been purposely misled. And, when this does happen, it’s important that the mediator sticks to their guns and encourages the participants through the following behaviours:
Of course, in terms of building rapport, trust, and confidence, the mediator’s actions can’t be faked. Whether this is showing empathy, or listening fully to what is being said, the parties will very quickly pick up if the mediator has no interest in wanting to be there. And, if this does happen, they will almost certainly close up and refuse to invest in mediation.
By keeping their biases in check and by remaining professional throughout, the mediator can show the parties that they aren’t taking sides and are completely neutral in the dispute. This can help to alleviate some anxieties about mediation and can increase the likelihood of the parties buying into the process.
With good communication being a key component of mediation, the mediator must take on board and fully appreciate what both parties are saying. By seeing things from their perspective, they can build rapport, reduce stress, and set a good example of quality dialogue.
Showing good faith
Mediation is unique in that it promotes a non-binding agreement, in which the mediator doesn’t try and impose a settlement on the parties. By taking this hands-off approach, only being there to facilitate conversation, we are putting our trust in the parties to fully take part with the best of intentions. This trust can then work both ways, meaning the participants can take control of their own outcome.
By setting these examples and nurturing trust, the mediator can hope for a more accurate recollection of events from the parties, without the worry of being misled, sabotaged, or lied to.
The joint session can also play an important role in this: by having the other participant present, they might be more hesitant to omit or change details, knowing full well that the other party would argue against this. This can drive people towards being more honest, or at least more so than in the individual meetings.
So, whilst mediators certainly don’t have x-ray vision, with good faith and honest intentions from both sides, we can reach a mutually-beneficial agreement that works for everyone involved.