There is no formula for figuring out who the “best” mediators are – there is no governing body that determines minimal qualifications for a professional mediator. Even if there were, education and training don’t guarantee competence, because a “good” mediator also possesses certain internal attributes that aren’t necessarily learned in a classroom. They just simply can’t be learned in a classroom. They are internal traits which are either inherent or learnt from one’s own environment.
This article lists external and internal attributes that the most effective mediators possess.
Mediators in the United States are not required to meet a uniform standard of education or training for beginning to practice mediation; each state has its own requirements, or, in many cases, none at all. It depends from situation to situation and place to place.
For this reason, it can be difficult to evaluate the qualifications of a potential mediator. We recommend paying particular attention to the following external attributes of mediators you are considering to hire:
How much training has the mediator received?
Was any of the training specific to a certain area of practice (e.g., family, landlord/tenant)?
How recently was the mediator trained? Do they attend refresher courses and keep up on current mediation techniques?
Where was the training conducted?
Does the mediator have a degree in dispute resolution or a related field? If so, from where (e.g. online, law school, university)?
These questions do held relevance, even though just a degree is not enough to know the competence of a mediator.
Certified or certificated? (If required in your state)
Is the mediator actually certified or certificated?
What organization issued the certificate?
What are the requirements of that certificate?
When was the certificate earned?
This will let you know the ‘value’ of you mediator, and will give you a fair abour his or her skills.
For how long has this mediator been in practice? Full-time or part-time?
How many mediations has this mediator conducted, and how many were similar to yours?
Does this mediator specialize in the area of your particular dispute?
This one is important. More the experience, more the tact. Experienced mediators often have higher success rates than the ones who are not that experienced.
Does this mediator belong to an organization requiring adherence to certain standards?
Does this mediator serve on the board of any relevant organizations?
This again gives an idea about the standing and influence of a mediator.
Philosophy and approach
What philosophy does this mediator apply to their work? Do they describe their work as facilitative, transformative, and/or evaluative? Take note of how the mediator describes their process, then consider what that would look like when applied to your case.
What kind of interaction with disputants does the mediator like to have?
Are fees charged by the session, by the hour, by the case?
What is included in these fees?
This one is also important and should be decided beforehand so there are no disputes about it afterwards.
What about the things that can’t be listed on a profile page? There are five ways to know about the competency skills which cannot be presented on the paper:
Effective mediators are able to quickly identify relevant information. They ask questions to gain an understanding of both the facts of the case and of parties’ underlying interests and motivations. This investigation helps them in understanding and resolving the case.
Mediators should handle the knowledge of parties’ underlying interests with empathy and consideration. They are willing to ask emotionally difficult questions and do so in an unbiased and respectful manner. A non empathic mediator has lower success rates.
Inventive and problem-solving
Effective mediators help disputants discover common ground and guide them toward mutual understanding from there; they are willing to be inventive with unusual situations. This will help you reach faster to a resolution.
Verbal expressions, gestures, and eye contact are consistently and effectively used by good mediators to structure an environment in which disputants are willing to re-examine their positions. They maintain a safe and relatively calm atmosphere with confidence and communicative body language.
Capably manages interactions
Mediators should keep the parties on track and working toward the issues they have identified as central to their conflict, and call for breaks or private caucuses when needed. A good mediator knows when allowing tension to rise will be productive and when to effectively defuse tension. These tactics must demonstrate sensitivity to the disputants’ needs (e.g., emotional, cultural) and remain neutral.
After the mediation
After you select your mediator – and hopefully, settle your case – it’s time to help others consider this mediator for their own cases. A testimonial and/or recommendation of your mediator provides vital information for other people in conflict, particularly about the mediator’s internal attributes that can’t be seen on a profile page.
Additionally, a testimonial helps to spread the word that mediation is a quick, confidential, and cost-effective way to settle disputes out of court. A mediator should be selected very carefully and in no haste.