Who is an Effective Mediator?

A mediator is an impartial party who assists disputing parties to identify the issues in dispute between them and explore possible solutions that will be acceptable to both parties.
The mediator is not a passive listener who nods his head in compassionate understanding as the parties describe their woes. On the contrary the mediator is an active listener and quite frequently, he or she bears the brunt of the parties’ hatred, accusations and desperation.

Characteristics and Qualities of an Effective Mediator
An effective mediator must possess the capacity to remain impartial and neutral. It is critical to stress the importance of neutrality and impartiality of a mediator. Whatever other qualities or sensitivity an individual brings to the role of mediator, none ranks in importance with the mediator’s neutrality.

The absolute nature of the need for impartiality imposes some serious obligations on a prospective mediator. The failure of a mediator to disclose a prior relationship with a party or quickly disqualify himself or herself when that relationship is a close one is a glaring ethical violation that undermines the integrity of the individual mediator. It can also happen that the substance of a dispute so arouses the prejudices or passions of a mediator that he or she should step aside to avoid compromising the neutrality essential to effective mediation.

The mediator must be an effective listener. The parties must feel that the mediator has clearly heard their presentations from their own perspective. A person who is constantly talking or asking questions may have some purpose in mind but, whatever it is, it is probably not consistent with that of the parties.

The mediator must be non-judgmental because the mediator’s role is to help parties reach an agreement whose terms are acceptable to them, even if the mediator disagrees with the wisdom or fairness of the resolution. One major task for the mediator is to purge from his or her vocabulary and mannerism those unconscious words and gestures that may be freighted with judgment. An example is nodding vigorously in response to a narrative tale. While the nod signals encouragement to the talker it may also suggest to the other watching disputant, that the mediator believes everything the opposite party is saying.

A mediator has to be a patient person. The parties want someone who will assist them no matter how long it takes to resolve the dispute. The mediator should be non-defensive. A mediator is often someone who bears the brunt of the parties’ anger and frustration. If a party makes a derogatory remark about the competence of the mediator and the mediator responds defensively, then the goal of promoting effective dialogue is violated.

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