I have recently attended an advanced mediation training course in Vancouver which was given by Gordon Sloan who is a highly respected mediator in B.C. The course was extremely helpful and enlightening. It focused on three dimensions of mediation which are:
a) the “attitude” of the mediator and how this shapes the mediation;
b) the “process” itself; and
c) the “skills” a mediator can use to be helpful.
Focusing on the “attitude” of the mediator is an interesting concept. A mediator’s background, philosophy, life experience, values and beliefs will affect how he or she approaches and conducts the mediation and this is a factor which one should take into account if possible when choosing a mediator. A good mediator should be able to recognize when their own values or beliefs are interfering with or influencing the mediation and be able to adjust their approach accordingly but to a certain extent the mediator’s attitude will always be present in the room.
The “process” is the actual procedural framework which the mediator puts in place. Where will the mediation take place, where will everyone sit, how and when will they be in separate rooms, what will they eat and when will it end. All of these are procedural decisions made by the mediator with the agreement of everyone involved in the mediation.
The “skills” which the mediator brings to the mediation refers to the questions, comments and reflections a mediator will use to help people communicate with each other more effectively. Everything the mediator says or does should be designed to help people reach a resolution to their problems.
A good mediator brings an awareness of all of these concepts to the mediation. They start well before the mediation begins and are used throughout the process and are the reason that mediation can be such a valuable process for resolving a dispute.