What Kind of Mediator Should I Be?

There are several different mediation styles. You may have been trained in a particular mediation style yet have discovered that there are things about one or more other styles that also resonate with you.

The good news is that a mediator can (in most cases[1]) customize their process, incorporate different elements from different styles to best suit the parties and their matter, and not feel limited to using those same elements in the next mediation that may call for an entirely different approach.

The Transformative Mediator

Transformative mediation is a style of mediation focused on impacting people to create positive change in relationships.[2] Transformative mediation is not focused on simply producing a solution to a short-term problem, but instead seeks to encourage introspection and, not surprisingly, transformation.

The Insight Mediator

An insight mediator does not believe that the conflict stems simply from competition for limited resources or that it arises due to a difference in opinions or interests.  Instead, they view conflict as a response to the perception (or the actual existence) of a threat.

Insight mediation is a process of learning about each other and discovering how the threat can be addressed and replaced by feelings of security. [3] Curiosity is fundamental to the insight mediation process as is the desire by all parties to reach a deeper understanding of their interactions with each other. 

The Narrative Mediator

At the core of narrative mediation is the belief that the words people choose when talking about themselves, others, and their conflicts, have a fundamental role in shaping their perceptions about the situation.[4] These words then inform subsequent reactions, behaviours, and decisions. In other words (no pun intended!), language is central to identity and interpersonal interactions.

Mediators who engage the narrative style do not accept that our interests are static, or that they even necessarily exist prior to and outside of the conflict. They, therefore, encourage parties to seek their deeply held values, beliefs, and interests in their social and cultural context rather than as something inherent to themselves as individuals.

The Facilitative Mediator

Facilitative mediation uses the traditional “interest-based” approach.[5] Instead of focusing on positions with limited solutions, each party is encouraged to identify and discuss the reasons underlying why they are seeking a particular outcome. This exercise then supports efforts to reach an agreement on the issues that need to be determined.  The facilitative mediator’s goal is to help the parties negotiate while remaining impartial in their role as the “guardian of the process.”[6]

The Evaluative Mediator

The evaluative mediator has a more active role in guiding the parties towards the resolution of their issues by asking the parties to set out the facts, issues, and law in detail, and then challenging the parties to defend their positions.[7] The function of evaluative mediation is less relational and more geared towards a practical outcome. However, even an evaluative mediator will guide the discussion towards interests to “expand the pie” so that negotiations can move past an impasse and to a final resolution and settlement. 

[1] Some employment settings and mediation engagements may dictate a particular style given their context and desired outcomes. 

[2] See for example, The Promise of Mediation by Robert A. Baruch Bush and Joseph Folger.

[3] See for example, Practicing Insight Mediation by Cheryl A. Picard.

[4] See for example, Narrative Mediation, A New Approach to Conflict Resolution by John Winslade and Gerald Monk.

[5] See for example, The Mediation Process by Christopher W. Moore.

[6] The 6 Phase Understanding Model, represented by the acronym PIECES (Prepare, Identify, Explore, Create, Evaluate, Solve), is a facilitative style of mediation promoted by the ADR Institute of Canada.

[7] See Gender Power and Mediation:  Evaluative Mediation to Challenge the Power of Social Discourses by Jamila A. Chodhury to learn more about the use of evaluative mediation in certain family circumstances.

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