Mediation skills and mediating conflict

The role of the mediator is to help parties reach a solution to their problem and to arrive at an outcome that both parties are happy to accept. Mediators avoid taking sides, making judgements or giving guidance. They are simply responsible for developing effective communications and building consensus between the parties. The focus of a mediation meeting is to reach a common sense settlement agreeable to both parties in a case.

For a mediator to be successful he or she must possess a wide range of skills. One of the most important, but perhaps least appreciated, is the ability to actively listen to what a party is saying and to note what the party is not saying. All too often we hear what we expect someone to say rather than what is actually said. It is a fundamental principle that mediators must not prejudge the case nor impose their own prejudices on the parties. Furthermore, a mediator has to be able to tune into “where the speaker is coming from” and read the “sub text” or hidden messages given out by the parties.

Mediation is managing conflict through the efforts of a third party that brings the conflicting parties together and tries to resolve it with them through discussion of the issues. The goal is to try to find a workable strategy that both parties agree to work with.

There may be times that you are called to intervene and manage conflict between colleagues at work so you will find the following guidelines invaluable when mediating.

Mediation is:

•    structured – mediators help people take things one step at a time, in a particular order (for example – clarifying and agreeing the problem/s before looking at solutions. Expressing concerns before creating ways forward)

•    specific – people are expected to be clear about what is happening, how they feel, and what they want to do about problems.

•    safe – it has inbuilt ground rules to help keep lines of communication open, maintain control, and encourage feelings to be expressed without aggression or blame.

Mediators help the disputants:

•    communicate – say what they need to, hear what the other side has to say, and respond to one another’s concerns.

•    co-operate – work together on problems, and work towards settlement, rather than aiming to win, or at least be proved right.

•    be more confident – trust themselves, trust one another, find creative ways of fixing problems. Use their interpersonal skills rather than falling back into negative patterns such as ‘avoid’ or ‘fight’.

Mediators do not:

•    make decisions for the parties

•    judge who is right or wrong

•    take sides

Key tasks for mediators

Before you start:

  • prepare yourself – are you the right person, can you be impartial?
  • prepare the room – is the atmosphere relaxed, will you be free from interruptions, is it a non-adversarial setting and a safe, neutral environment?
  • prepare the otherslet them know in advance how the session will work, get them to clear their diary. Cover their absence; think about what they need to say.

Who will benefit from the course?

This course is of value to professionals and managers in organisations, wishing to introduce mediation to handle workplace conflict swiftly and cost effectively and who handle the following:

Delegates will learn how to:

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