When Facing Opposite Choices, It’s All a Question of Balance

The excellent mediator must answer the challenges posed throughout by the participants’ behaviours and the content of the mediation, and it is the extent to which balance is achieved at every moment through the exercise of good judgement that determines effectiveness.  The mediator’s focus and approach must change frequently throughout the mediation – sometimes planned and sometimes intuitive. 

The following headlines seek to describe and define in summary some of the areas where the mediator must make choices to create the appropriate balance, which can make all the difference to the outcome for the parties.  The word ‘balance’ in no way implies that the answer lies in the middle with the scales gently poised in equilibrium; in mediation, the need for a particular focus may be extreme in one situation and at another be absent entirely.  The really effective mediator does not fall into one category or another but uses the full panoply of techniques, skills and approaches to meet the changing demands of each case, each situation and each person involved.

Each of us, depending on our experience, expertise, emotional and practical preferences, will feel more or less comfortable at different points on the spectrum for each of the aspects listed – the skill lies in the ability to be flexible, even to the extremes which lie far outside our own zones of comfort, and helping the parties to be flexible, too.

  • Task – Process – Relationship

The management concept that a balance is needed between task and relationship is relevant to the mediator, with the added dimension of process being critical, too.

  • People - Issues

The temptation for some whose professional experience is in the content of the mediation, or conversely where their training is in psychology, for example, must be particularly alert to the need to leave for a while the understanding of the issues – or the understanding of the people - and move as needed along the people / issues spectrum.

  • Detail - Big picture

Jungian theory of type suggests that each of us has a preference for detail or big picture – awareness of this as a starting point, as with other aspects, helps to move us appropriately   between specific and global viewpoints, and t help the parties to do so.

by Heather Allen (CEDR)

Continue reading: http://www.cedr.com/articles/?309

The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) is an independent, non-profit organisation with a mission to cut the cost of conflict and create choice and capability in dispute prevention and resolution. www.cedr.com