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More Keys to Mediator Success


Some words, spoken at the right time, in the right way, in the right context, can be particularly powerful. They can sometimes cause a new thought or unfreeze a position. This compilation is intended to assist trained mediators and add possibilities to their already extensive vocabularies. It offers many ‘tried and true’ expressions in a variety of contexts to help them unlock hidden possibilities and improve mediation successes.

How to Use This Collection

From this random-order collection of expressions presented one right after another, simply select and use any seemingly helpful expression wherever they are appropriate. Types of situations are roughly categorized into Sections denoted by an underlined subtitle. Some expressions may strike a chord of usefulness more than others. Slide the reading eye down past the ones that don’t click, hunting for the ones that do. Since there are so many expressions and since some convey the same idea with different wording, a personal working set might be selected for easy access and remembrance by highlighting or extracting favorites. [Words in these brackets] are editorial asides for the reader, such as [When a hard position is stated] then “…..”


”Let me share with you what I’ve heard and please correct me if you hear anything wrong.”

“You indicated _____”

“One observation you made is _____”

“You are saying ______”

“It sounds like you’re telling me_____”

“You’re also telling me _____”

“I’m hearing _____”

“What I’m getting is __________”

“I think what I’m understanding is __________”

“To summarize, what you both seem to be saying is ______”

“And you have some concerns about ____”

“Is that accurate?”

“Is that right?”

“Have I heard you correctly?”

“I hear you. I understand.”

“Thank you ___. I think we all have a better sense of how you feel and what you are going through as ____.”

“It sounds like you’re saying you made some errors and you want the consequences to be over with sooner rather than later. Is that right?”

“What I’m hearing from both of you is a real interest in getting this resolved. With good faith collaboration that’s very possible. Working together you can do it.”

Mutual Understanding

“You’ll make the most progress toward resolution by making this a conversation where you demonstrate understanding of the other side’s interests while you express yours.”

“I’d like each of you to be open and receptive to the perspectives of the other person.”

“You can hold onto your story while opening your perspective to understand their story.”

“There’s always room for, and even a need for, a variety of perspectives.”

“A rival is just a stranger whose story hasn’t yet been heard.”

“I’d like you to tell me the other party’s point of view; just as if you were speaking for them.”

“What have you learned just now that you didn’t know before that helps you understand _____’s perspective?”

“Image what each of you has perceived about the other is just the tip of an iceberg. What you haven’t seen yet, below the surface, is big and fascinating to be explored.”

“Our (they’re) behavior is much more obvious than the thinking and intentions behind it.”

“It’s not always obvious what reasons people have for what they do. We need to work more on getting the reasons out and understood.”

“We tend to judge outcomes without enough appreciation for what lead up to them.”

“The better you understand where they’re coming from, and care about it, the more you’ll be able get them to go in a direction you both want.”

“Even when we do nothing wrong circumstances can make us give other people great distress.”

“What did you hear when they said __________?”

“How do you feel or what would you like to say after hearing what you just heard from ____?”

“What did you learn in what you heard that casts a new perspective?”

“What’s best for you may not be best for _____.”

“I hear from _____ that he/she cares about _______ and ______. Can you reflect back what you heard in the way of needs, interests and concerns?”

“What do you think is the most convincing part of what you (they) said?”

“What effect does it have on you … to hear ____ say ____?”

“Let’s back up. When he/she said ___, you had a reaction. Talk about different aspects of that.”

“What did you hear ____ say?”

“Please repeat back what you just heard?”

“Before elaborating on your story, please restate the other party’s perspective in your own words.”

“Can you tell me in your own words what you heard the other party talk about? What are they thinking? For example, I heard _________.”

“I wonder if you’re willing to say back to ____the interests he/she has expressed, such as ____, _____, ______?”

“With your permission, let’s try an exercise to sure your perspectives are understood. Each party repeats what they think the other party said and what they meant. Then we’ll fix any misunderstandings or overlooked items.”

“Just so there’s no misunderstanding or misinterpretations about what ___ is trying to get across, please express in your own words what you just heard from ___ and ask for any clarifications you’d like.”

“Just to be sure the meaning of your words were understood we’ll paraphrase what we heard.”

“Everyone has a tendency to guess at another’s interests and concerns, often incorrectly. Let’s check by asking, listening and re-stating what we learn. Then ‘close the loop’ by asking them if we restated it sufficiently.

“[If they’re not ‘connecting’] I heard it a little differently; I heard _____, _____. Is this right?”

“I think we’ve got some information here that will help you see what happened in a different context.”

“You know exactly what impact their actions had on you. Their actual intent may not be known as exactly. Do you want to explore that?”

“You’ve helped make your perspective very clear.”

“Just imagine for a minute how this might appear to an outside neutral person; someone else looking at it from the outside.”

“What do you think a person who doesn’t know you, never met you, an impartial third party … would feel is important in figuring out ___?”

“Why does it matter whether what he/she said is the exact truth? What would be affected?”

“You’ve different versions of history from each other. That’s pretty common. Now step back for a broader perspective that can allow for differences and still seek creative solution terms.”

“Lincoln famously said: ‘If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him of your sincere friendliness.’”


Dudley Braun

Dudley Braun started mediating 6 years ago with community mediation panels.  This work evolved into active mediation.  He has mediated hundreds of cases with institutions such as Contra Costa County's Superior Court's mediation panel.  He combines this with his first career and his extensive training and study, driven by fascination… MORE >

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