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How To Talk Like A Mediator – Part Three

This continues Mary Greenwood’s series based on an excerpt from Chapter 9, How To Mediate Like A Pro, published February 2008. Here are the links to Parts One and Two.

As her bio states:

Mary Greenwood is an attorney, Mediator and Author of award-winning book, How To Negotiate Like A Pro: 41 Rules for Resolving Disputes and her most recent book is How To Mediate Like A Pro:42 Rules for Mediating Disputes.She lives in Miami Beach, Florida. Her website is and her email address is how[email protected]

How To Talk Like A Mediator

One of the hardest jobs of a mediator is to give a good response to the parties’ concerns. After mediating thousands of cases, I have heard a lot of questions and concerns from the parties. The mediator has to give a response that informs without alienating one or both parties. Here are some responses that a mediator can make. They are not the only response but what I consider a good response.

Comments About The Other Party

Principled Party: It is not about the money but the principle.

Mediator’s Response: I understand that you believe you are right and you don’t want to go against your principles. As a mediator, I do not determine who is right or wrong. It is possible to resolve a dispute without making that judgment call. What is it that you truly want? Is it an apology or a change in policy?

Take It or Leave It Party: This is what I want and I am not budging.

Mediator’s Response: I understand you don’t want to budge from your position. Unfortunately, the other side is not budging, either, and we are at an impasse. Mediation is a give and take and there has to be some compromise if the case is going to be resolved. If the impasse cannot be broken by one of the parties, then I will have to close the mediation. Why don’t you split the difference and both parties get something?

Self-Righteous Party: Why should I apologize? He is the one who is wrong?

Mediator’s Response: Sometimes an apology is an easy and cheap way to resolve a dispute. Just because you apologize does not mean that you are taking anything away from your position. You can honestly say that you are sorry for the confusion or misunderstanding. An apology can go a long way to help the other party feel good about the situation. However, an apology must be sincere or it will make things worse.

Self-Righteous Party: I have done nothing wrong.

Mediator’s Response: I don’t like to think in terms of who is right or who is wrong. That is not the way to get something resolved. Let’s look at some solutions that would resolve this situation.

Self-Righteous Party: He made the mistake. Why should I suffer?

Mediator’s Response: Mistakes do happen. To err is human. I don’t think he did it on purpose. This gives you a chance to me magnanimous and understanding.

Judgmental Party: It is not fair that I give something up.

Mediator’s Response: Mediation is not about fairness or getting even. Both parties have to be willing to compromise to find a solution.

Disinterested Party: I really don’t care if this gets resolved. It is the other side’s problem.

Mediator’s Response: The other side is motivated to resolve this situation. Can you think of anything the seller could say or do that might change your mind?

Angry Party: He makes me so mad.

Mediator’s Response: I know you are upset. However, mediation is not going to be successful if the parties let their emotions interfere with resolving the dispute. Let’s concentrate on what you want to settle this dispute. Would an apology make a difference?

Judgmental Party: The other side lied.

Mediator’s Response: I know there is a misunderstanding between the parties. Whether he did it intentionally, I have no way of knowing. I suggest we give him the benefit of the doubt and let’s move forward.

Disappointed Party: She does not know how to communicate.

Mediator’s Response: I know that you did not receive any emails from her. Is it possible your spam filter blocked her emails. What do you want to tell her now? Let’s move forward and see if we can communicate.

Defensive Party: Yes, I did make a mistake, but she overreacted.

Mediator’s Response: I am glad you admitted your mistake. Maybe she did overreact, but she was very upset. Would you be willing to apologize to her? Sometimes an apology can go a long way to help start some dialog.

Defensive Party: She is making a mountain out of a mole hill.

Mediator’s Response: I know you think that she is making too much out of this. However this is very important to her and she can’t help how she feels. Try to put yourself in her shoes. Is there any way you can make her an offer?

Unforgiving Party: I want others to see his feedback. I don’t want to withdraw it.

Mediator’s Response: I understand what you are saying and it is your choice. However, you are missing out on an opportunity to have your feedback withdrawn, too. If you don’t care if your feedback remains as well, then I will close the case.


Gini Nelson

Gini Nelson is a sole practitioner in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her practice emphasizes private dispute resolution, including distance dispute resolution, and domestic, bankruptcy and bankruptcy avoidance law. MORE >

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