The A-Z of Mediation: Optimism

Posted on: March 18th, 2024

Alongside Confidentiality, Impartiality, and Voluntariness, you could argue that there is another core facet that makes for a successful mediator – OPTIMISM.

After all, if the mediator or the parties don’t believe that a resolution is possible, surely the process is doomed to fail from the start?

And in our experience of providing mediation services, as well as training people to do so themselves, it is those who approach mediation with optimism and persistence who often get the best results.

First of all, optimism is key in building an initial relationship between the mediator and the parties. It can ease anxiety about taking part in what can be a nerve-wracking experience, encourage parties to open up and become vulnerable, and boost confidence in a possible positive outcome.

There is also a ‘trickle down’ aspect. If the parties see that the mediator has genuine hope for the situation, and that they are confident in producing a positive outcome, this may even start to rub off on them too. This can help them to invest in the process, perhaps more than they were originally willing to do so.

Having said that, mediators must also be realistic in what they can achieve. Mediation is not a wonder cure, and mediators are not always miracle workers! A mediator must not go into the session expecting to resolve it instantly, with the parties walking out as best friends come the end – it would simply be arrogant to do so, and the parties would pick up on this pretty quick!

However, that’s not to say that there aren’t other outcomes that we can’t be optimistic about, even if the mediation doesn’t result in a written agreement. A good mediator will know that an agreement is not the be all and end all. In some cases, even getting parties together in the same room and talking again - however limited - can be seen as a big win. It may even open the door for further communication and a possible reconciliation further down the line.

At the end of the day, we have every right to feel optimistic about the infinite possibilities that mediation can bring. However, as mediators, we need to remain positive, adapt to the specific situation, and be realistic about what can actually be achieved.