You may be surprised to find that mediation is the right way forward in many cases. In fact, its popularity is increasing significantly thanks to the fact that it’s far less expensive than going to trial and both sides have a bit of additional control during the process. However, a successful mediation relies on the talent of the mediator.

While many are quite successful. it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re truly great. Instead, there are a number of mediator characteristics that push them from an option to help avoid going to trial to a real solution to the problem at hand.

What makes a truly great mediator? Most share five key characteristics.

1. Objectivity

The best mediators are completely objective and cannot allow themselves to be emotionally involved in any potential outcome because there are always opportunities to help both sides realize their goals throughout the process Any type of conflict involves serious emotions, which can alter the course

A good mediator cannot have a stake in the outcome if a fair solution is to be reached. Instead, the mediator must not only be completely neutral, but everything he or she does must appear completely neutral to both parties as well. It’s important to note that nearly everyone has unconscious biases, but recognizing those biases from the outset can help prevent potential conflict resolution issues. 

2. Creativity

Mediation is, in and of itself, a creative process. The goal is to think outside of the box to come to a solution that is agreeable to both parties. Good mediators have the ability to improvise solutions that may not seem like standard solutions.

Mediators must adapt as the situation within the mediation room changes, and they must be prepared to come up with solutions that help reach the shared goals.

Boilerplate solutions almost never apply in the world of mediation. Instead, attempting something that may not be standard is nothing short of a must in this setting.

3. Perseverance

The ability to move ahead when things simply aren’t going as well as you’d hoped is important in any setting, but it’s more true in the world of mediation than it is anywhere else. Good mediators devote time to prepare so that no matter what comes about during mediation, they can remain dedicated to dispute resolution.

Clients on both sides of the table often see these efforts and respond well to them, and good mediators who continually encourage individuals to remain just a bit longer at the negotiation table are often rewarded with the ideal solution. 

4. Negotiating Skills

Unlike judges, mediators don’t really have any power to force parties to come to an agreement. As a result, they must be good negotiators to build a problem-solving attitude and create the results necessary in mediation. Often that means a solid level of emotional intelligence to better understand every aspect of the process, including the economic and emotional pieces.

That also means there is a need for good self-control. Displays of anger or even irritation can quickly derail a negotiation. Typically negotiation begins the moment the mediator is finally able to define both the points of agreement and those of dispute. Once those are clearly addressed, the creation of options for agreement can begin, and that is where a successful outcome can be clearly defined for both parties.

5. Communication Skills

Few things can happen in mediation without good communication skills. The mediator must not only be a good communicator, but he or she must also understand the process of communication because they control the flow of communication. Understanding how to communicate well and read the communication dynamics of those involved is absolutely vital to the process.

Mediators must continually reframe and restate what they’re hearing to help eliminate the negativity that can so often damage the mediation process. Ralph Nicols once said, “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood,” and this is truly the principle behind mediation. Thus, a good mediator must listen, understand, and present well throughout a session.

Mediation isn’t just a list of skills. Instead, it’s often the combination of those skills in concert that creates reliable results. While these are far from the only mediator characteristics necessary for success, these tools are those of great mediators who can help parties avoid going to trial for problems that could easily be solved through mediation. Some of these skills can certainly be learned, but many of them are simply innate characteristics.

As a result, finding a mediator with the right qualities can be difficult, but not impossible. There are many mediators with similar characteristics that can help your clients get the desired results. 

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