Traits of a 'Mediator'


by Sam Imperati

January 2009

Sam Imperati Mediation is a science and an art. Although many mediation skills may be taught, the development of a skilled mediator requires experience in dealing with people in all conditions and under all circumstances. Although there are many intangibles in the definition of a “good” mediator, certain character traits are invaluable.

SPECIAL NOTE: Be sure to read the FULL DISCLOSURE below to fully appreciate this article

Alertness

The mediator must be alert on several levels while mediating. He must concentrate on the information being provided by the source and be constantly evaluating the information for both value and veracity. Simultaneously, he must be alert not only to what the party says but also to how it is said and the accompanying body language to assess the party’s truthfulness, degree of cooperation, and current mood. He needs to know when to give the party a break and when to press the party harder. In addition, the Mediator constantly must be alert to his environment to ensure his personal security and that of the parties.

Patience and Tact

The Mediator must have patience and tact in creating and maintaining rapport between himself and the party, thereby enhancing the success of the process. Displaying impatience may:

  • Encourage a difficult party to think that if he remains unresponsive for a little longer, the process will end.
  • Cause the party to lose respect for the Mediator, thereby reducing the Mediator’s effectiveness.

Credibility

The Mediator must provide a clear, accurate, and professional product and an accurate assessment of his capabilities. He must be able to clearly articulate complex situations and concepts. The Mediator must also maintain credibility. He must present himself in a believable and consistent manner, and follow through on any promises made as well as never to promise what cannot be delivered.

Objectivity and Self-control

The Mediator must also be totally objective in evaluating the information obtained. The mediator must maintain an objective and dispassionate attitude regardless of the emotional reactions he may actually experience or simulate during a questioning session. Without objectivity, he may unconsciously distort the information acquired. He may also be unable to vary his questioning and approach techniques effectively. He must have exceptional self-control to avoid displays of genuine anger, irritation, sympathy, or weariness that may cause him to lose the initiative during questioning but be able to fake any of these emotions as necessary. He must not become emotionally involved with the party.

Adaptability

A Mediator must adapt to the many and varied personalities which he will encounter. He must also adapt to all types of locations, operational tempos, and operational environments. He should try to imagine himself in the party's position. By being adaptable, he can smoothly shift his questioning and approach techniques according to the operational environment and the personality of the party.

Perseverance

A tenacity of purpose can be the difference between a Mediator who is merely good and one who is superior. A Mediator who becomes easily discouraged by opposition, noncooperation, or other difficulties will not aggressively pursue the matter to a successful conclusion or exploit leads to other valuable information.

Appearance and Demeanor

The Mediator's personal appearance may greatly influence the conduct of any mediation and attitude of the party toward the Mediator. Usually an organized and professional appearance will favorably influence the party. If the Mediator's manner reflects fairness, strength, and efficiency, the party may prove more cooperative and more receptive to questioning.

Initiative

Achieving and maintaining the initiative are essential to a successful questioning session just as the offensive is the key to success in combat operations. The Mediator must grasp the initiative and maintain it throughout all questioning phases. This does not mean he has to dominate the party physically; rather, it means that the Mediator knows his requirements and continues to direct the collection toward those requirements.

"AUTHOR'S" FULL DISCLOSURE:

The above excerpts were “cribbed” from Chapter 1, Field Manual 2-22.3 (FM 34-52) HUMAN INTELLIGENCE COLLECTOR OPERATIONS HEADQUARTERS, DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, September 2006, which is now an unclassified document. The Manual’s Preface states, “This manual provides doctrinal guidance, techniques, and procedures governing the employment of human intelligence (HUMINT) collection and analytical assets in support of the commander’s intelligence needs.” Basically, I substitute the words “mediator” for “HUMINT collector,” “party” for “source,” and “mediation” for “HUMINT collection,” along with a few other edits.

Are the similarities between mediators and Human Collectors disturbing or comforting?

For more information, read HOW TO BREAK A TERRORIST: THE U.S. INTERROGATORS WHO USED BRAINS, NOT BRUTALITY, TO TAKE DOWN THE DEADLIEST MAN IN IRAQ by Matthew Alexander with John R. Bruning.

to top of page

Biography




Sam Imperati is the Executive Director of the Institute for Conflict Management, Inc. ICM is a Pacific Northwest-based, national provider of mediation, facilitation, and training services. Sam has been an attorney for over twenty-nine years and has managed countless disputes – some of which he even started! He has lectured nationally on mediation, negotiation, conflict resolution, and ethics. He was formerly Assistant Corporate Counsel with Nike, in private practice, and has handled litigation and mediated everything from “Admiralty” to “Zoning.” He has served as a Judge Pro Tem and as Chair of the Oregon State Bar Alternative Dispute Resolution Section. He appears in the 2009 edition of The Best Lawyers in America for mediation. He was the recipient of the 2007 Oregon Mediation Association Sid Lezak Award of Excellence for Outstanding Service to the Profession of Mediation in Oregon.

Email Author
Website: www.mediate.com/ICM

Additional articles by Sam Imperati



Comments



-- --
 Pearl Georgen,   Los Angeles CA  pmgeorgen@aol.com      08/04/10 
--
-- -- --
Good job, Sam. Thanks for addressing the male pronoun issue. It was a concern of mine also. I like the article and your chutzpah in writing it.
-- -- --
--
 
--
--
--

-- --
 Pearl ,   Los Angeles CA    08/04/10 
--
-- -- --
Interesting and innovative correlation made by the author. i'm impressed. I hadn't thought of mediation in quite this way before, particularly from this source (the manual).
-- -- --
--
 
--
--
--

-- --
 Fisher Michael David,   Melbourne Vi  rudd2@live.com.au      04/23/09 
 ADR 
--
-- -- --
The essential key to resolve conflict, to mediate and effectevely conduct ADR process such as: dispute or negotiate, is to keep every trick of the trade as close as possible and to invade and to unfold intrinsic nature of human feelings of every one involved. Feelings are the clouds over the rights. It is a duty of every professional to utilize re framing principles and to systematical isolate concerns and issues of the case. Various models e.g. 7 stages of the mediation or 12 steps to resolve a dispute or any other is there for the purpose. ADR process has a future as long as its walks together with generation serves its needs and deliver prompt justice within complex multicultural society interests, rights and obligations.
-- -- --
--
 
--
--
--

-- --
 paul  ,   Knoxville TN    04/20/09 
--
-- -- --
The categories of "traits" sound promising. I believe the explanations of the categories miss the point. In my perspective of mediation the mediator is a neutral. No agendas. Her goal is to keep the parties focused to come to a resolution. So when there is the "agreement", the parties came to it as both informed and voluntarily. The process is all about them. Some of the listed traits help but aren't the complete answer. I would rather be trusted above all. Helping the parties think their way out conflict is what it's all about. Thank you.
-- -- --
--
 
--
--
--

-- --
 Sam ,   Portland OR  SamImperati@comcast.net      02/25/09 
 Pronouns 
--
-- -- --
I have received emails from colleagues noting I only used the masculine pronoun in the above article. One was addressed to “Ms. Imperati,” perhaps to make a point. As the “Author’s” Full Disclosure indicates, the article was “cribbed.” I considered changing the pronouns, but decided against it because I thought it was telling that the real authors did not. Perhaps the point was too subtle, for which I apologize. Thanks, Sam
-- -- --
--
 
--
--
--

The views expressed by authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Resourceful Internet Solutions, Inc., Mediate.com or of reviewing editors.




Academy of Professional Family Mediators

Copyright 1996-2014 © Resourceful Internet Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.