We now conclude this 7-part series by considering the qualities and traits that should characterize the ideal mediator. Hopefully, I have shown that being a Mediator is not simply an act; it is a life, disposed and committed to seeking and bringing peace in the resolution of conflicts and, wherever necessary or applicable, restoring relationships and connections.
Mediation is not just what I do; it is part and parcel of who I am. Mediation is not just an ADR process; it is a culture and lifestyle, which ought to be followed in private lives as well as in the culture and strategy of corporate organizations. Thus, I believe that qualities of the ideal Mediator include love, warmth, integrity, balanced temperament, and a peaceful disposition. These form a firm foundation for the necessary empathy, listening skills, self-control, courtesy, good etiquette, creativity, and openness of thought. It also predisposes him/her appropriately to embrace innovation (out of the box or even no box disposition) and peculiar, extra-ordinary ideas, with just a right touch of humour. Such a one will be sober without being too serious.
(By the way, I am firmly persuaded that AI can only have a limited success at doing mediation.)
I would also recommend the following traits as required.
A good mediator must be able to inspire trust. When people attend a mediation session, they want to believe that the Mediator will keep all discussions confidential and use any information they receive to reach a mutually acceptable resolution to the situation. If clients don’t get this impression, they will not talk openly. This way, the purpose of mediation is frustrated.
The Mediator must provide a clear, accurate, and professional qualification and relevant track record, if necessary. This aids credibility. This also requires following through on any promises made. It also includes being careful to promise what he/she cannot, or may not be able, to deliver.
Patience and Tact
Mediators must be able to create and maintain rapport between themselves and the parties. This requires tact and patience. Without these, parties can quickly lose confidence in the Mediator as well as in the process.
He must have exceptional self-control to avoid displays of genuine anger, irritation, sympathy, or weariness that may cause him to lose the initiative during questioning.
I am not sure a Mediator can ever be truly neutral or objective. However, he or she must be able to convey a sense of being so, by always balancing words and gestures, accordingly, e.g. if one party gets to speak for 10 minutes, as much as possible, so should the other.
Achieving and maintaining the initiative are essential to a successful questioning session just as the offensive is the key to success in combat operations. The Mediator must grasp the initiative and maintain it throughout all phases. This does not mean he has to dominate the party physically; rather, it means that the Mediator knows his requirements and continues to direct the process toward those requirements.
The mediator must be alert on several levels while mediating, constantly evaluating the information received both for value, as well as for veracity. Simultaneously, he must be able to discern the accompanying body language to assess the party’s mood, truthfulness, degree of cooperation, and any power imbalance that he may need to work to correct.
Good mediators should be friendly, empathetic, and respectful expressing genuine concern for parties’ individual well-being. Plus, an appropriate sense of humor and a sense of optimism, without manipulation.
A Mediator must adapt to the many and varied personalities which he will encounter. He must also adapt to all types of locations, operational tempos, and operational environments and circumstances.
Let me close by reproducing here, a comment by John (Norval) Settle on one of my LinkedIn posts, viz:
“.. .. [Mediators should not] get stuck thinking it’s all about mediation. The first thing is to do a good assessment of the dimensions of conflict in the particular setting, followed by crafting an appropriate response — which may include mediation/s, as well as training, coaching, team-building, firing somebody, etc. We actually harm mediation by over-generalizing its use, because it won’t work for everything!”