What Are Essential Skills for a Mediator?

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    Mediator Experts

    What Are Essential Skills for a Mediator?

    In the nuanced field of conflict resolution, we sought the wisdom of experienced Mediators and Attorneys to uncover the pivotal skills that make a successful mediator. From mastering the art of listening to combining active listening with creative problem-solving, discover the five key skills these professionals emphasize as essential, along with their personal development strategies.

    • Listen More Than You Speak
    • Give Parties Full Attention and Respect
    • Develop Active Listening Through Education
    • Cultivate Patience for Successful Mediation
    • Combine Active Listening with Creative Problem-Solving

    Listen More Than You Speak

    If a key skill to be successful in real estate is learning 'location, location, location,' then a key skill to be successful as a mediator is learning to 'listen, listen, listen.' People involved in a dispute need to be heard and listened to. This also has a cathartic effect. Once a person involved in a dispute feels heard, this typically allows them to move forward and focus on resolving the dispute at hand. How to develop effective listening skills? By remembering we were born with two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we talk!

    Kevin Fitzharris
    Kevin FitzharrisMediator, Barrett McNagny LLP

    Give Parties Full Attention and Respect

    As a mediator, I have to understand the parties' perspectives, needs, and interests. I start out by reading mediation statements carefully, but in order to fully understand, I must listen to the parties with full attention and respect. The parties need to know that I understand and appreciate their worldviews and perspectives. Only when they accept me as fair and neutral can I engage them in a conversation toward making peace.

    Ken KoreaPeaceMaker, DealMaker & DecisionMaker, Colev Law

    Develop Active Listening Through Education

    A key skill I believe is essential for a mediator is active listening. Active listening is more than just listening to what the client is saying, as you might do with a friend or family member. It means that you are focused on what they are saying and able to take what they've said and mirror it back to them or rephrase it in a way that will help the conversation move forward more productively. I developed this skill in a few different ways; one was by completing my courses for my Master's in Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law. Additionally, I find the best way to develop this skill is to practice, which is something you can do with friends and family. The more you practice, the more it becomes second nature to be present and listen to what someone says and able to pull out the important aspects of what they've shared with you.

    Amanda Singer
    Amanda SingerFounder & Professional Family Mediator, West Coast Family Mediation Center

    Cultivate Patience for Successful Mediation

    A key skill that is essential for a mediator is patience. Most mediations begin with one or both sides saying they don't see a possibility of settlement, and most (in my experience) end in a settlement. The key to making that switch in opinions is taking the time to really listen to what each side is looking for and expecting, and assuming the process will take time. If the mediator tries to rush the process, the process will fail. If the mediator gets angry at one side or the other for being unreasonable, the process will fail. My method for developing the patience needed for mediation is one that most mediators would not want to follow, however: I was a high school science teacher for almost 20 years. Talk about needing patience!

    Brandon DiamondCircuit Civil Mediator, Diamond Mediations

    Combine Active Listening with Creative Problem-Solving

    I can think of several skills a mediator needs in order to be successful. 1) Active listening is by far the most important and underrated skill there is to develop. Interestingly, it's an easy skill to develop but a hard one to practice. To do so, all one must do is listen without judging, not jump to conclusions while somebody else is speaking, and allow the other person to finish their thoughts or sentences. 2) Creative problem-solving is the second step to delivering results in mediation. To do so, all one must do is think deeply about what the parties really want. Sometimes it's money, but often it's not. Often, it's something else, something deeper, something that takes time to develop through active listening in mediation.

    Travis Hookham
    Travis HookhamAttorney, Lanza Law Firm, P.C.