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Choosing a mediator

Experience
Mediation can be complex and it is important to work with a mediator who has the experience to manage the process effectively. Strategic decisions must be made at each step: when to separate parties and when to bring them together, how to obtain relevant information, which information to share and when, how to help people get past impasse. As the process unfolds, approaches must sometimes be reassessed and adjusted. An experienced mediator is best able to gauge the progress of the situation and make the right choices in guiding the mediation.

Commitment
People come to mediation when an issue is important to them so it is critical to work with a mediator who will persevere in finding a satisfactory solution. The best settlement is one to which the parties can say a heartfelt “yes.” The mediator who is prepared to look beyond the goal of simply settling the case quickly can help the parties achieve real resolution and closure.

Creativity and Problem-Solving
People come to mediation because they’re stuck. The more creative the mediator, the more options the parties have for getting unstuck. With flexibility and a commitment to problem-solving, a mediator can help parties identify realistic possibilities they might not otherwise have imagined. The court system operates in such a way that typically one party wins and the other loses. A creative mediator helps craft solutions that, even for seemingly intractable problems, transcend the win-lose model and achieve benefit for all parties.

Trustworthiness
Mediation addresses issues that are sensitive. The private nature of mediation is one of its advantages over going to court. When all the parties are confident that the mediator is trustworthy and discreet, there is greater belief in the process. The assurance of confidentiality is a vital part of creating conditions for successful mediation.

Respect
A good mediator will ensure that the process is safe for all present, so fostering an atmosphere of respect is important. People who come to mediation may be experiencing fear and despair because of the conflict situation. Part of the path to resolution involves being allowed to work through their feelings as well as explore their needs and interests. When people are in this vulnerable and often highly emotional state, they need to know that the mediator is able to maintain a calm and respectful environment.

Listening
In many conflicts, the need of the parties to express their feelings and points of view is more important than their attachment to a particular outcome. Unless they are able to feel that they have been fully and respectfully heard, it is likely that hostility and disappointment will linger. The successful outcome of the mediation depends greatly on the mediator’s skill at listening. Through intuitive and open listening, a mediator can help uncover the underlying issues the parties are struggling to articulate. This allows for greater clarity in the situation and opens the way to healing and resolution.