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Checklist: Tips for Mediators in Advice Centres

This is a checklist of things you can do as a mediator to make a mediation session run better:

  • Explain that the purpose of mediation is to get the two sides to discuss their points of view and to get a voluntary agreement between the two sides
  • Apply the rules and procedures that both sides have agreed on to both sides equally.
  • Always stay impartial by keeping your personal opinions to yourself and be careful of the way you address people. For example, if you call people ‘comrade’, or ‘ladies and gentlemen’, will this suit all the people who are there?
  • Be aware of personal tensions between the sides. If possible, try to get these out of the way before going on, or at least stress that people should avoid being personal
  • Encourage each side to listen and to keep a note of questions and comments
  • Give each side a chance to state their position fully before allowing questions and answers
  • Give each side a chance to start off speaking, and then alternate this (this means give each side a chance to speak first)
  • Announce the time allowed for each speaking turn, for example, 5 minutes each
  • Inform people when they have one minute of speaking time left
  • Whenever it is useful, summarise the main points and ask both sides if they are happy with your summary
  • Make notes of questions asked and practical solutions suggested
  • If a speaker makes very general or vague points or accusations, encourage the speaker to be more specific
  • Try to encourage agreement on easier and less heated issues first
  • To encourage both sides to compromise, suggest that for mediation to succeed, a ‘give-and-take’ attitude is needed, rather than a ‘winner-take-all’ approach
  • If one side admits something or makes a compromise, then encourage the other side to respond
  • If things are very heated, suggest a short break, or ask the sides to hold the particular issue till later
  • If there is a deadlock (no progress on an issue), try to break it by speaking separately to each side
  • If one side says something important in the separate meeting with the mediator, encourage them to say it directly to the other side
  • To start moving to an agreement, link the different solutions suggested by either side and add alternative solutions from the chair (especially solutions which make both sides do something, for example, both sides agree not to attack members of the other side)
  • When drawing up an agreement, first list the things that force both sides to do something. Then list the different things that each side needs to do, alternating them (that means, first one from side A and then one from side B). Lastly, write down what will happen if anyone breaks the agreement.