What are the qualities that make an effective mediator? What are the personal traits that I need to work as a mediator? Do I need to be a lawyer to be a mediator? Before I consider taking courses, how do I know if I have the basic personality to be a mediator?
These recent questions got me thinking about this topic again. If you have good communication skills and an interest in resolving conflict, you may be considering mediator education as a new career path or an enhancement of your current skills.
Let’s get one question out of the way right now. You do not have to be a lawyer to be a mediator. Many effective and busy mediators are not lawyers.
There is a great deal written about the skills needed by a mediator to be effective. Those skills are learned in courses which teach mediation, such as the courses offered by Munn Conflict Resolution Services. However, there is not much information available about the personal qualities most suitable for a mediator.
After more than 20 years teaching mediation courses and more than 25 years as a mediator, here’s my checklist of seven essential mediator traits, the basic personal qualities that make a good mediator.
- A mediator needs ability to build genuine rapport with many different people. Without feeling trust people will not open up to reveal what they truly need.
- The mediator adapts to what the people want rather than trying to impose an outcome on them.
- Objectivity and self -control
- The mediator must always remain objective and never jump to the side of one of the disputing people, even in a private conversation with them.
- The mediator must resist any temptation to try to manipulate people.
- The mediator must be able to manage their own emotions. Getting angry right back at them is not effective.
- Tenacity/ Perseverance
- If the mediator were to quit when people say they can’t agree, very few mediations would result in an agreed outcome. There is usually a way around any impasse and the mediator needs to stay focussed on the way forward, not the barriers.
- An organized and confident professional manner is necessary to reassure people that the mediator can help even when the situation is difficult.
- Analytical ability
- The mediator needs to be constantly alert to what is happening with each person in the room, with the overall meeting dynamics, and how the mediator’s intervention is affecting the people.
- Sometimes called intuition, the mediator needs to be able to discern what people need despite what they say and their legal position.
- Creativity is the spark that can help people to find new ideas for solutions, and to be willing to keep talking to build those ideas into a practical agreement.
- Patience & Tact
- It takes patience and tact to maintain rapport with people and at the same time be able to help them assess ideas that may be very emotional or challenging.
- Also patience and tact are needed to keep listening and building understanding between people who do not believe it is possible to resolve their situation.
In addition to this list of seven personal qualities, the mediator needs knowledge about the subject area of the mediation at least to the level of understanding the nuances of the conflict.
If you checked off most of these items, consider taking a mediation course in 2023. This may be the start of a new direction for your career!
[This article has been updated since it was first posted in February 2020.]
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