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How to Select a Good Mediator

A good mediator can make a big difference in a dispute or a difficult negotiation. What should you look for when choosing a mediator? To start with, select an individual with specific mediation training. Many states now have laws regulating mediators. For example, in Florida, only certain individuals meeting specific educational, training and mentoring requirements can be certified by the Florida Supreme Court to mediate. Unfortunately, the search for a good mediator doesn't end there. In Florida, there are almost 6,300 individuals certified by the Supreme Court to mediate. They are not all alike. There are many different styles of mediating.

A good mediator should be able play an effective part in the negotiation process using tools and techniques developed specifically to promote fact finding, creativity, and compromise while preserving and promoting each parties right of self-determination.

Mediators Should Ask a Lot of Questions

The true underlying interests and motivations of people are usually not readily apparent. What people say is not always what they mean. It’s up to the mediator to draw out the most important issues and "get to the bottom" of every dispute. It is important to ask enough questions before you try to formulate the right solution. This is called the 5 Whys Principal. This principal states that only after you the question "Why?" five times, will you likely get to the root cause of a problem.

Mediators Should Facilitate Decisionmaking

Two people get together, negotiate and make a business deal. When a dispute occurs, it’s no longer just a business deal. Disputes become personal and then often lead to litigation which starts a process that one or both parties may not understand. A good mediator must help the parties separate, quantify and prioritize all these factors in such a way that they can return to a calmer state to conduct a negotiation to reach a new agreement.

Mediators Should Explore Two Tracks

People are usually not inclined to negotiate or make concessions in mediation unless they are provided with a good reason to do so. If they don't have a good reason to negotiate an impasse will likely occur. It is up to the mediator to try to provide each party with one or more such good reasons throughout the course of a mediation conference. Mediators can accomplish this if they follow a dual track mediation strategy. Track 1 - mediators need to uncover, understand and communicate to each side, a reasonable amount of facts to support each of the other party's claims and defenses. Track 2 - mediators must help each of the parties understand and quantify the risk and uncertainty of their desired outcomes. The mediator's challenge in this dual track strategy is to always try to determine and balance how much of each track is required by each party to keep them both at the negotiation table.

Mediators Should Promote Non-confrontational Negotiations

People often come into mediation with a lot of bottled up frustration and anger. Sometimes, a person needs to vent before a meaningful negotiation can commence. A good mediator recognizes this and will facilitate and control a reasonable process for the parties to vent. However, venting needs to end before any negotiations start. Anger and frustration can ignite arguments and confrontation which can undermine the entire mediation process. A good mediator quickly sets a climate for non-confrontational negotiations.

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