Mediator Types

CASPER MILQUETOAST: Shy, wallflower type. Sits back, says little, let’s the parties run the show. Believes mediator’s presence is sufficient by itself and shines forth—in a bright circle above the head.

PSYCHIATRIST: A telepathist. Has a high school major in psychology. Reads minds and believes knows what the parties are going to do before they do it. What’s fun is when they don’t!

BULLDOZER: Aggressive type. Pushes parties to settle—whether they want to or not! Settle or not, they may leave a little unhappy, but figures what else is new?

SHERMAN TANK: The Bulldozer plus Weapons. Blasts away to get parties to settle. Takes no prisoners. They settle—or else!

PREVARICATOR: Creative. A great story teller to his children—and to mediating parties. In caucus, weaves positions out of whole cloth to get parties to settle. Everyone’s happy—until parties’ counsel compare notes the day after.

POLITICIAN: Nobody is left unhappy. Settling parties leave the proceeding bewildered and talking to themselves: “What happened? What did I do? Why did I do it?”

CHAMELEON: “What do you want me to be?” Changes with the mood of the environment. Unpredictable. Reacts and adapts to the unique personalities of the parties. Has no identifiable style—or personality.

GROUCH: Nothing seems to make this mediator happy. Miserable if you impasse. If you settle, you’re not sure you did right—but you enjoy seeing the glimmer of a smile, however short-lived, on the mediator’s face!

FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER: Rants and raves. Parties settle out of sheer terror, uncertain of the measure of this demon’s wrath.

I-DOTTER/T-CROSSER: Exacting to a fault. Step one inch over mediation’s statutory or regulatory line, and you will hear chapter and verse from this mediator’s bible. Foreheads bounce off the table during his interminable opening statements.

STYLIST: A frustrated actor. Believes the mediator must have a unique style and tries to dazzle you with the uniqueness. Has forgotten different strokes for different folks. Sometimes works, if the right combination of personalities are present.

AGNOSTIC: “Why am I here, and what am I doing?” Milquetoast’s first cousin. True believer in letting the parties reach their own decision—dubious about the whole process, still trying to figure out what to do and why.

PREACHER: “We are here for a reason, and we are doing God’s will.” Has no doubt about the virtues of The Process. When all else fails and negotiations are going south, resorts to silent prayer—but only if group won’t join.

LEGAL EAGLE: The lawyer-mediator. Knows he shouldn’t render a legal opinion but can’t help it, bursts with enthusiasm to do so. Walks a thin line, sometime gets the job done, but won’t see the loser of the legal argument again.

SLEEPWALKER: Hello! We’re here. Are you? Never seems to connect with the group. Ambulates wearily through the process. Probably had a tough night before. Always there on pay day, however.

COMEDIAN: Doesn’t know much about the process but tells damned good stories. Amidst the humor, parties settle, if only to maintain the levity of the moment. What’s fun is when they don’t laugh!

GREENHORN: Watch this mediator’s eyes as they bounce repeatedly off the checklist clipped to the corner of the mediation file. Stressed but thorough. Gets the job done—among yawns around the table. Eventually learns to relax—or becomes I-DOTTER/T-CROSSER’s prime student.

CLICHÉ MONGER: Doesn’t have an original thought, just worn clichés, which are driven into parties’ heads like nails into a new roof. The approach often works—probably because parties and counsel compete with mediator for the same worn clichés.

DISCLAIMER: None of the mediators at Florida Mediation Group meets any of these criteria—at least not most of the time.


Edward P. Ahrens

Ed Ahrens has been a member of the Florida Bar for over 43 years. He is a certified state and federal court mediator in Tampa, Florida. He is also a freelance writer and former president of National Writers Association, South Florida Chapter. He is the author of the popular book,… MORE >

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