The purpose of this post is to highlight some of the mediator’s roles to better comprehend what the mediator can do and how it might be useful. This is because there is a lack of understanding about the roles of the mediator, and this has led to little or no use of mediation in jurisdictions. This post was inspired by and echoes a similar article on mediator roles and the need to understand them on the Kluwer Mediation Blog. Some of these roles include the following. Trainer of Mediation Participants Mediation participants require the support and advice of specialists who have experience in mediation and mediation advocacy. Although there has been some growth in this area, the growth is quite low, especially in countries where mediation is not widely used. Therefore, the mediator has a very important role in helping the parties comprehend the principles underlying the mediation process and the best way to approach the discussions that can result to the best durable and mutually satisfactory solutions. A good example of the mediator’s trainer role is when mediating civil or commercial cases, where this role is expressed at the beginning stages in preparation for the joint meeting, when the mediator communicates separately with the parties. Manager of the communication and negotiation process between the parties When the parties decide to make use of mediation services, they entrust the mediator with the design and the management of a balanced communication and negotiation process, based on ground rules proposed and agreed by the parties. This helps the parties to focus only on the content, the substance and the decisions they can take together.Impartial and Neutral facilitator with no power of decision The mediator organises and facilitates communications within the mediation process. He or she must ensure that all participants in the mediation comply with those rules and remind them of rules whenever required. The parties to the conflict accept the mediator’s “facilitator” role and are comfortable in principle because the power of the facilitator can’t be harming for them. I have always interpreted the “requirement” of “neutrality,” as a reference to the series of actions, gestures, and words, which provide equal opportunity to all sides to express themselves. Or, sufficient opportunity not to make them feel disadvantaged, or marginalized. Things like active listening with equal time and opportunity to all, are (some, but not all, of course, of) the things that convey an environment of neutrality. They include the exercise of the essential mediation skills, among others, of “balancing power” between/among disputants. In summary, I have always viewed the notion of my impartiality and neutrality, as a mediator, from the perspective of my actions, gestures, and words (including facial expressions, voice tone and other “body-language” type indices), which are suitably designed, appropriately timed, and skillfully conducted to convey an appearance, or even perhaps an assurance, of my impartiality and/or neutrality. Agent of Reality Overconfidence is one of the psychological factors that can generate the state of conflict. Also, the parties often forget about their own vulnerabilities due to them being under the influence of their own emotions and focusing on the vulnerabilities of others. This is why playing the role of a reality agent is crucial to draw the parties’ attention to their own risks, and to uncalled-for scenarios that can be achieved if the parties fail to reach a negotiated agreement. This leads to objectively analysing the alternative situations through bilateral discussions with the parties.
Some of these roles entwine with each other, but their separate emphasis are crucial to understanding what capabilities of the mediator. The mediator can adjust his / her roles according to the stage of the mediation process and the objectives of that stage, as long as the parties and mediator are comfortable with the role.