This post is by Elizabeth Rosa, Founder and Principal at Resolve at Work

I am interested in what can make us feel stronger and more confident in our role as mediators. Some of us may have years of experience and others may be just starting out in a career in mediation, but for all of us we have the challenge in a mediation of trying to steady the ship through a sea of conflict and high emotion. Our work takes a lot of strength and perseverance and sometimes we may feel worn out by it. I believe it is helpful to think about who we are and the strengths and qualities we bring to the mediation table.

In conducting a mediation, we have in the forefront of our minds, the processes that need to be followed, and the interactions that take place between us and the parties. We are conscious of each party’s issues and how they feel. We strive to ensure that we help them to speak of their concerns and that there is equal airtime for each of them. We help each party to explore options for resolution and encourage them to stay the distance until they have reached some solutions. But often we don’t think of what we bring to the mediation. These are often a very subtle and subconscious set of skills and life experiences, and it is good to take some time to reflect on what is unique to us and how our qualities enhance the overall outcome of mediation.

Through my work as a lawyer and a workplace mediator, I have experienced many scenarios during the mediation process that lead me to understand not only the overt but also the subtle impact the mediator can have on the outcome. Let’s have a look at some ideas about what mediators bring to mediations. I hope these may be prompts for you to reflect on what you bring yourself from your own individual experience.

Aspects of our personality:

Our calmer selves, our empathetic natures, our interest in people

Is there anything else you bring?

Our attitudes:

Diligence, hopefulness, curiosity

Consider what attitudes you have.

Profession skills:

Many mediators have trained in other professions prior to, or in tandem with, their practice as a mediator. Our own profession has trained us in a certain discipline: a way of processing information, a mode of thinking, a certain manner with clients. For example, a psychologist would bring an understanding of human behaviour, responses to stress and needs in the resolution of conflict. A lawyer would bring experience taking a history from a client, an ability to compartmentalise the facts into issues, a certain formality of bearing.

How do the skills of your other profession help you with your mediation work? How do they help you to deal with the client and to understand their needs? How do your skills help you conduct the mediation in a way that explores the issues in hand and manages client behaviour?

Life experiences:

That time you hiked through Tasmania, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, or travelled solo through Europe as a young student. These experiences bring space and growth to our souls, as well as personal resilience. This gives us the inner strength to manage the intensity of the mediation setting.

Sit back and remember an adventure that stretched you physically and mentally.

The exercise we enjoy:

It could be a morning walk or yoga session, a swim or a round of golf. Building our muscles and our strength gives us confidence in our bodies and contributes to our mental wellbeing.

What exercise do you do? Reflect on what strength it brings you.

Our interests and hobbies:

Perhaps you like to write or you have an interest in photography. Or you might sing or play a musical instrument. These things give our minds the joy of being in a state of ‘flow’ and bring us mental strength for the times we are engaged in work.

What interest do you have? Consider how it feels when you spend time on your interest – do you feel in a state of flow? Do you feel mentally relaxed?

How we socialise:

Do you love to socialise? (In non-COVID times!) Or do you prefer more time to yourself? If you enjoy socialising, you may find yourself intrigued by other people’s personalities. If you prefer more time to yourself, you may find peace in having quiet times.

Consider what your preference is and how it helps you engage with parties in a mediation.

Embrace all of who you are: your positive attitudes, your helpful nature, the strengths that you have from life experience, including your exercise and hobbies. Also, the skills that you may have from a tandem profession or a previous role. Next time you walk in the door of a mediation, remember you bring all your strengths and let your confidence rise.

If you would like to learn more about workplace mediation - best practice to follow, how to encourage a positive response from the parties involved and an understanding of the role you play in the mediation process, take a look at my upcoming workshop: How to Run a Workplace Mediation.

Elizabeth Rosa is a Nationally Accredited Mediator, a Workshop Facilitator and the Principal of Resolve at Work.