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Are You An Effective Mediator?

PCDN Global

May 4, 2009

Are You An Effective Mediator?
by Jeff Thompson, Ph.D.

I am sure each of my readers will be saying, “Yes Jeff, of course I am.” And then of course if you know me and my blog, there is much more to the question.

The easiest and quickest way to decide if you are an effective mediator is to point to the success rate of cases you handle. You can say to possible future clients, “I have a 92% settlement rate with cases I mediate.” You can also use such percentages on first dates but I cannot promise you it will get a second date.

So do you decide your effectiveness on your success rate? Is that how your parties decide? I believe measuring your effectiveness via successful settlement is limiting yourself. Yes, it is important but there is much more that goes into being an effective mediator.

Think about it, if all you cared about was racking up your settlement percentage, how genuine will you come across when you are supposed to be using empathy or acknowledging feelings? Yes, don’t ever forget there are feelings involved, even if the case is allegedly only about money!

So what other terms can be used to assess your mediation? I recently read in Mediation: Skills and Techniques, the following terms can be used in measuring your effectiveness:

Process is an integral part of mediation. Are the parties happy with the format? Did they feel they were able to speak and be understood? Did they think it was fair? Did they have equal time compared to the other party(s)? Ensuring the parties are not only satisfied but also happy with the process should not be overlooked as the process itself is many times just as important to the participants as the actual issue that brought them to the mediation. Being part of the process and decision making not only increases the effectiveness of the mediation but it also has an impact on the durability of the settlement.

Efficiency refers to the order and structure of the mediation. Did you help both parties prepare? Did the mediation take a reasonable amount of time? Was it too brief or drag on and on?

Empowerment is another method used to measure a mediator’s effectiveness. It is important to make sure that all parties involved are on an equal playing field. How do you do that? The following can be helpful:

- Equal speaking time
- Limited interruptions
- Both parties understanding it is their process, not yours or anyone else’s
- They are the ones deciding the outcome, the power rests in their hands
- Equipping them with skills to not only handling the current issue but future ones too

Durability means how the result of the mediation will hold over time. A photo-worthy handshake is worthless unless the actual agreement is something the parties can both stick with. Did both parties contribute to the decision making process Future casting and reality testing can help you as the mediator to get the parties to consider this.

Relationship. Sometimes the parties get so worked into their positions (which we have to help them move towards interests, right?) and the issues they forget about the relationship they have with the other party. It could be a client, neighbor, employee, friend or co-worker. Losing sight of the relationship raises the potential to damage, possibly permanently, whatever connection they have with the other party. This brings up the unfortunate win-the-battle but lose-the-war scenario. The mediator’s job in the context of relationship is to help the parties have a better understanding of each other and assist them to evaluate each option, including their BATNA and WATNA, with its influence on their relationship.

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