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Mentoring Techniques and Practices

Tips, Techniques, and Best Practices

            This paper reflects the experiences shared by many mentor mediators and those who have been mentees.  The points are displayed for before, during, and after a mediation session. This paper was developed by John Settle, Geetha Ravindra, and Toby Treem Guerin. Click here for the entire paper.          

Before the mediation:

1.             Discuss what the mentee wants to achieve in the upcoming mediation and any concerns and anxieties they have.  Try to focus the mentee on specifics – skills, mediator philosophies, stages, etc. 

2.              Against the background of the mentee’s experience to date, any developmental needs noted by prior Mentors, and the discussions under 1 above, plan with the mentee for your mutual expectations and your respective roles – e.g., how you two will share or otherwise handle the introduction to mediation, the extent to which you will share “air time” during the mediation, how to deal with breaks, and how to deal with particular skill development needs of the mentee.  Revisit and reinforce basic learning points as needed (e.g., for the introduction,the trust-building overlay, different ways of approaching “ground rules”).  Remind the mentee about the importance of body language and of the importance of listening for the “message behind the words.”

3.              Discuss your personal styles or model of mediation with the mentee, and any particular practices you favor (or don’t) concerning, e.g., “ground rules” and caucusing.  This provides a touchstone for post-mediation debriefing on different approaches to issues that arose during the mediation, particularly where the mentee may have heard about different approaches from trainers or other mentors.  Mentees often are trying to make sense of different perspectives from several sources.

4.              Assure that the mentee understands that the parties’ needs are paramount and take precedence over the mediation as an educational endeavor for the mentee — and that if you as Mentor feel the need to step in, you will do so.

5.              Discuss what you know about the upcoming case, and any particular emotional, process, power, or substantive matters that might arise and ways in which these matters might be approached.

6.              If you are joined by an observer rather than a co-mediating mentee, clarify expectations about how the observer will be introduced to the parties, where the observer will sit, and the observer’s non-participatory role.  Give the observer assignments for later discussion:  watching body language, questions about your actions and reactions during the mediation.

7.            Share your practices around a suggested “toolbox” – copies of forms, “introduction-to-mediation” outline, tissues, calendar, notepaper and pens, etc.



John Settle

  Norval D. (John) Settle specializes in mediation of EEO and workplace disputes. He is certified by the Supreme Court of Virginia as a mediator and Mentor Mediator. He is a member of the Virginia Bar, and "Of Counsel" to the Alexandria, Virginia, employment law firm of Riselli and Pressler. He… MORE >

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