“healers of human conflict,” 4 they must
create a neutral space where the disputants
feel safe to acknowledge their conflict.
Prerequisites of a
Empowering the parties to take control of
the dispute and to resolve their differences
in a collaborative way generates the success
of facilitative mediation. This requires that
mediators must possess skills beyond just
learning the procedural aspects of mediation. The success of the mediation is
dependent on recognition of attributes,
attitudes and underlying biases of both the
mediators and of the parties and on knowledge of how to overcome those things that
create roadblocks to resolution.
Initially, disputants arrive at the mediation table with an already-established emotional feeling about the situation and the
other party. They may be angry, hurt, disappointed, upset or even apathetic. Each of
these underlying emotions generates a certain type of response by the disputant based
on their individual personality traits. The
responses may be impulsive, critical, manipulative or controlling. This challenges the
mediator to recognize the dynamics of
the underlying communication between the
disputants, both verbal and nonverbal, and
to use effective strategies to get the parties
inspired and engaged in their self-resolu-tion process while diverting the destructive
behaviors that are unproductive.
In everyday life, we: ■ routinely come into contact with peo-
ple who believe that something is true
even when it is not; ■ recognize that some people simply do
not want to face the facts because they
think they are right and the other per-
son is wrong; ■ see people who are in denial and do
not believe they have done anything
wrong or caused someone harm; ■ see people who avoid a situation
because it is simply too painful for
them to face; and ■ hear people who blame other people
for their actions.
In everyday life, we can choose to
ignore these types of attitudes. In mediation, however, the mediator must deal with
these underlying existing attitudes. The
successful mediator is adept at establishing
rapport between the parties and keeping
the communication going in an open and
engaging manner. The mediator must set
acceptable boundaries and keep the balance
of power in check. Recognizing that each
small compromise is a resolution, the mediator focuses the parties’ attention to that
resolution as commendable and helps build
continuous trust in the process that an
ultimate resolution to the problem is
The trained mediator is attuned to the
parties’ verbal communication and is assessing the tone, pitch, volume, speed and
intensity of the disputant’s spoken word.
The mediator is also in tune to the nonverbal communication that is being generated
by the parties. Maintaining eye contact keeps
Mediation as a Healing Art
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