Key habits of top mediators

  • 28 January 2016
Dispute Resolution

Success is not an accident. It is a constant effort driven by passion and a desire to do well. With the 11th edition of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Commercial Mediation Competition just a week away, we take a look at some of the key habits diligently and consistently employed by top mediators around the globe.

Gain a certain level of knowledge about the history and nature of the dispute.

Preparation is the answer to just about everything. Having a solid command of both the facts and the conflict helps mediators guide their parties to a resolution. “Information is power in mediation. Nothing is irrelevant,” said William Wood QC, who is listed in the 2011 International Who’s Who of Commercial Mediation as one of the 10 “most highly regarded individuals” internationally. Although the extent to which each professional prepares varies, understanding the case is imperative for a positive outcome. It is this awareness that is used to encourage the parties to help themselves.

Establish a positive and open atmosphere.

Setting boundaries and guidelines for the parties to follow is central to create a respectful and productive environment. In setting the stage where parties can feel safe, it allows them the opportunity they deserve to carefully consider their situation. “It is about helping them visualize together, which means forming ideas together,” said Birgit Sambeth Glasner, an accredited mediator and attorney-at-law, LL.M., partner at Altenburger in Geneva.

Quickly understand the essence of the conflict.

In getting to the nitty-gritty details, you can unveil the true underlying problems that are causing the blockage of the conflict. “What I ask them to do, is to tell me the story of their relationship. We go through that story and it always talks about expectations and positive emotions at the beginning. Then frustrations appear. This is how I understand, step-by-step, what the actual problems are …,” said Thierry Garby, a lawyer turned mediator and arbitrator who also teaches negotiation and mediation throughout the world. Laying those details out on the table and enabling the other side to take that information into consideration is how a solution is most often found.

Be completely neutral and impartial and convey that to each of the parties.

Since mediation is a voluntary process, mediators must be perceived as being reasonable, knowledgeable, and most importantly, trustworthy. “Mediation requires openness and walking in with no preconceived ideas,” said Ms Glasner. Any hint of sensed bias to one side or the other will only undermine the mediators trust and rapport with the other disputant. A neutral mindset is the answer to a successful mediation session. Putting aside prejudices, personal opinions and being aware of the persuasiveness and influence of parties, however challenging, will increase acceptance and pave the way to reconciliation.

Patience and perseverance.

A mediation session is a highly pressurized day for all involved. But it is the mediators job to set the pace and be a good example. Coming to the table with a clear head and being mentally present the entire time, no matter how hard that may be, is very important to the entire process. “It is about allowing the parties the opportunity to really understand each other. They may need time to explore. While this may seem unimportant to me personally, it is in that exploration that understanding can take place. This is at times difficult because there are other things on your mind, but you have to extract yourself and focus on their needs rather than your own,” said Ms Glasner.