Mediation is a term that usually scrunches foreheads whenever it is used. Most people have either never heard of using mediation as a form of resolving their disputes, or they have heard the word, but have never witnessed the effectiveness of mediation. This is a trend that I have noticed with the people that I associate with. Being a young mediator (23 years old) I generally socialize with a younger crowd. They understand fully what is involved in litigating a case, but mediation is puzzling to them. The art of working out a problem has been lost since it is so easy to go down to the local courthouse and file a lawsuit against someone.
Spreading awareness of mediation is something that I strive to do on a daily basis. Clearly, the more that people know about mediation (how the process works, how quickly a dispute can be resolved and not to mention its cost effectiveness) the more it will benefit all mediators. So the big question is why do younger mediators struggle to prove themselves to be equally effective within a field of seasoned practitioners?
To try to answer this question, I assessed the three major traits for becoming a successful mediator. These are personality, training, and experience.
The first major characteristic of a successful mediator is the ability to connect with both parties. This entails a positive personality. Personality traits are generally developed by the teenage years and remain parallel for life. The ability to put both sides at ease and allow each individual in the case to feel that their side of the story is not only being heard, but understood as well, is essential. This has nothing to do with age but everything to do with tact and diplomacy. The more comfortable each person feels with the mediator, no matter their age, the easier it will be to work together to resolve the issue at hand.
The second aspect of successful mediation is the necessary training. There are many wonderful mediation training classes out there. These classes are excellent in the fact that everyone who walks into the class is in essence on equal ground. All the students, regardless of age or career experience, attend these training courses to gain the necessary information to proceed in becoming a court certified mediator. Overall, I have found these training classes to be very beneficial in many different aspects. It is helpful to witness other mediators and realize all the different styles of mediation. It is comforting to know that this career is not a cookie-cutter career. Everyone has their own style and there is no “right” way to do things. Since all mediators must meet the exact same qualifications, the age factor is once again removed.
So, that brings me back to the original question at hand, is why do younger mediators struggle to prove themselves to be equally effective within a field of seasoned practitioners? And I believe I have found the answer to that question. Experience.
The last major trait of a successful mediator is experience. This attribute might seem, at first glance, to play in the favor of the older generation of mediators. Being experienced in certain areas of the law (i.e. having been through the divorce process before, having worked in the insurance business before) obviously has its advantages, but it can sometimes be a hindrance to the mediation process. In order to be absolutely neutral in a case, a mediator should not bring to the table any preconceived ideas of how the case should turn out. While I believe experience is an important aspect of a mediator’s repertoire, I do not believe it is, or should be, the most important part.
So what makes young mediators stand out from the crowd? First and foremost, we have a lot at risk. As young mediators, we are starting up our practices and we’re realizing that we have to do a superior job, each and every mediation, in order to continue to build a solid clientele. In addition to this, young mediators have the ability and creativity to think outside of the box and come up with original solutions, rather than the standard by the book solutions. Next, young mediators, for the most part, are more flexible with our schedule. We are willing to go the extra mile for our clients and prove to them that we can handle a case that is typically reserved for a more experienced mediator.
It is great to have more experienced mediators who are willing to share their wisdom and knowledge of the law and techniques of mediation to the younger generation. I am thankful every day to have these individuals in my life. Hopefully through this article, we as the new generation of mediators will be able to get the word out to give us a chance and let us prove to everyone that we are able to handle all the bumps and bruises involved in mediating a case.
If public opinion is anything to go by, conflict resolution is for sissies. If that's the case, then maybe it's time to give the public what it really wants: advice...By Diane J. Levin