How do you know if your mediator is really a skilled facilitator? A good mediator is an expert at performing active listening. Active listening is listening with to comprehend, rather than listening to respond. In mediation, active listening is crucial to an impartial outcome. If your mediator is listening to respond and move on, they’re not actively listening to your conflict.
Here’s how you can tell if your mediator is a good active listener:
#1: They want to hear your story and understand your perspective.
Obviously, a decent mediator will hear your story, but a good mediator will actively listen to your story and understands that your perspective is unique. They want to understand not only the conflict but your perspective on the conflict.
#2: They ask for clarifying details without interrupting.
A good mediator will listen to your story, get your perspective, then ask for clarifying details. They’re not going to interrupt your flow of storytelling because that shows they may not be fully listening to all of the details. If they’re interrupting you to ask questions, this could also show a lack of respect. A good mediator will gather their questions and ask them at the appropriate time, not while you’re trying to talk.
#3: They show empathy toward your conflict and resolution.
A good mediator is naturally empathetic, meaning they have the ability to understand others’ feelings. They will want to address any emotions that are being experienced because oftentimes, it’s emotions that are perpetuating the dispute. Your mediator will want to help resolve emotions, as well as the conflict at hand, and care about the ultimate resolution. They’ll also ask clarifying questions about how each party is feeling emotionally for a better understanding of the conflict as a whole.
#4: They value silence.
Silence is a very valuable tool and mediators should listen silently more than they talk. Silence can make things feel awkward, but it’s also an excellent way to get participants to talk. People naturally want to fill the silence, and in mediation, the more talking about the conflict, the more details come out. In many cases, a solution can’t be reached because only the surface story is what is known. Silence can encourage participants to continue talking if only to avoid an awkward moment.
If you’re considering mediation, whether online or traditional, choose your mediator carefully. Meet with your mediator beforehand to simply get to know them to see if it’s a good fit before going forward. A good mediator is invested in finding a solution to your conflict, not billable hours, not winning the case, they’re looking for a solution. Your mediator should be interested in hearing your story, your perspective, and what is important for a solution.