There have been many posts about mediation, the different styles of mediation, and getting ready to go into mediation. Today, let’s take a step back and look at the facilitator of a mediation, the mediator. The definition of a mediator is “a trusted, neutral person who facilitates a process designed to empower parties to recognize their own, satisfactory solutions to intractable conflict.” This lengthy and wordy definition of a mediator can be confusing and difficult to comprehend. However, each word in the sentence has an important meaning. We will take a look at each of these words in an attempt to better understand the role of a mediator.
Conflict: This refers to any issue that is causing distress. Mediators come in and try to resolve the issue. The issue can be something as small as a conflict between family members or as big as a nuclear disarmament disagreement between several countries.
Intractable: It is important to note that not all conflicts cause distress. Sometimes conflict only causes distress for one party and not the other. However, there is still a problem if one party is distressed. The goal of the mediator is to satisfy both the distressed and the other party.
Solution: The primary goal of the mediator is to come up with a solution that works for both parties. Mediation, unlike law or arbitration, allows creative and custom-tailored solutions. Although mediation is not therapy, mediators do hope that talking to each other will allow the parties to better understand the conflict and therefore come up with better solutions.
Own: This word refers to the custom solutions parties can come up with for their personal conflicts. Since the two parties are the ones that will be impacted most by a decision, mediators allow parties to come up with their own solutions. In law or arbitration, a judge or arbitrator impose requirements and become experts on personal situations. Coming up with their own solutions allows parties involved in mediation to have more control over the outcome.
Find: This word emphasizes the fact that mediation is a team effort. Both parties must come together and word with the mediator to create a solution that works best for everyone. Once again, encouraging parties to talk to one another will allow them to find their own solutions.
Parties: In order for mediation to work, the mediator must work to get all parties to mediation. If three stakeholders are involved in the decision and only two are willing to mediate, the third stakeholder may not feel bound by the decision. However, if there many more stakeholders, such as ten, it may be difficult to get all of them to mediate. If only one person, out of ten, refuses to come to mediation, he can still be bound by the group decision. In fact, the tenth shareholder may actually be at a loss by not having his wishes considered when everyone else was discussing the conflict. Although it is a difficult task, bringing all parties to mediation can be very beneficial.
Empower: Another goal of mediation is to empower the parties to achieve the solutions in their best interest. The mediator must get the parties to talk to each other and come up with the best solution.
Process: There are many styles of mediation and we have discussed many of those styles on this page in earlier posts. Regardless of the type of mediation style, the mediator should focus on being a neutral party. The most common style of mediation is the “Facilitative Method,” where the mediator decides on the meeting format and helps explore possible solutions. Other styles include evaluative mediation, transformative mediation, and narrative mediation.
Facilitates: This word has been used several times already, but the meaning may not be clear. The mediator must always be in control during the mediation in order to facilitate the conversations between the parties. The mediators experience and special skills should allow him to effectively facilitate the mediation.
Neutral Person: The mediator must always remain neutral and not choose any sides. If one party feels like the mediator is choosing sides, they are encouraged to voice their opinion.
Trusted: In addition to being neutral, the mediator must be trusted by both parties. Both parties must be confident that the mediator has the experience and skills necessary to help them solve their conflict.
While the lengthy definition of a mediator may have seemed daunting, we hope breaking down the definition into keys terms has cleared up any confusion on the role of a mediator. Put simply, the role of a mediator is to bring the parties to mediation and help them discuss the best solution for their conflict.
Source referenced: Just Mediation