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Self-Determination in the Skilled Mediator


Self-determination is a powerful tool.  It is an apparatus that can be cultivated into all walks of life.  Every individual must utilize this tool to achieve the level of competency that is expected in different agendas and sources of conflict.  Having faith in and having a high level of self-determination can foster achievements in many aspects of life. Self-determination can be used to balance the inequities that allow our equilibriums to become saturated.  It can empower the next person in her/his conquest to achieve the momentum that should be expected in a conflict setting.  For us to fully understand our client’s point of view, we must walk in their shoes and feel the impact of what is trying to be conveyed to them in self-determining their outcomes for a suitable resolution.  We as mediators must first feel empathy to have the full effect of accomplishing goals in settling outcomes for our clients.


Let’s be candid!  A mediator’s strength lies in the capability to conquer opposing parties’ obstacles and setbacks so that a viable resolution can be worked out.  This can take time as well as money to maneuver through mindsets, emotions, positions, needs, interests and power imbalances of opposing parties.  This can be stressful for all involved.  The role of the mediator becomes very significant as a problem solver.  Who is the person behind the face?  

We, as everyday citizens and mediators who may deal with stressful episodes daily, go an extra route and wear many hats in our achievements or conquests as mediators are put through the grueling tasks of trying to come to a resolution where both parties will be satisfied or at the bare minimum, can walk away feeling empowered and take something with them that they can work with. These daily occurrences do not last for a mere half an hour.  They can take hours and days and still result to an impasse.  Mediators can be left at a standstill! 

Mediators are left stressed as they gather their thoughts for the next conflict mediation session approaching.  They try their best to bounce back to reality to be able to deliver what the opposing parties seek from them; their confidence in leading them to a resolution.  Therefore, if done properly by the mediator at hand, victories, triumphs, successes and wins can be achieved.  This takes skill by the mediator.  The mediator must be empowered to lead from the inside while being looked at from the outside.

While mediators cannot advise and make determinations for disputants, they do instill self-determination in the parties to help them achieve resolutions.  A parties’ resolution must be free and uncoerced in their informed choices as to the process and outcome.  A mediator must not impose outcomes or force the conversation in any way. Their main purpose is to help their clients define their issues, needs, and solutions to guide them to outcomes that they can be satisfied with.  Achieved agreements can be long lasting when the mediator empowers constructive communications between the participants during the mediation session promoting understanding, and keeping the parties informed of their own interests to seek creative solutions that will enable the parties to reach their own agreements.  

A parties’ self-determination begins before they enter the mediation.  It speaks to their ability to make choices and manage life on their own.  They exercise this self-determination in mediator selection, process design, participation in or withdrawal from the process.  They opt for the best in mediator selection to guide them through the process.   As disputants in mediation seek freedom and consistency, the mediator seeks autonomy and relatedness in order to be able to relay self-determination in the disputants in need.  They must feel connected to the individual in helping them achieve outcomes and must convey a direct action that will result in a real change for disputants to move forward.

A mediator can enable the disputants’ exercise of their own self-determination lessening the chances of the mediator exercising her/his own.  They need to feel connected to the disputants for them to have confidence that their mediator can lead them to a resolution.  A mediator needs to feel that her/his actions are endorsed by the disputants in need.  When a mediator has a high level of self-determination, she/he is less eager to psychologically make excuses or assign blame to either party.  The mediator will feel motivated to fix the inequities with the parties by empowerment in bringing them back to table in realizing why they are at the mediation.  The real effect of the mediation must be met.

Certain psychological needs are met through self-determination of a mediator.  The capability for self-determination in the mediator is demonstrated by personal responsibility of the mediation. A mediator needs to discover mechanisms that promote psychological health to improve the quality of life for themselves.  One of the main indicators of major functioning in them is their psychological well-being, which seeks the development of capacities and personal growth within.  It is our need to expand, have ongoing personal growth, integrity and well-being as mediators.  Well-being balances our equilibrium, and we are better able to handle emotions through others in a mediation and through our psychological selves.

A mediator adds an extra dimension to the process if their own interests are included.  Their contribution to the process can be exceptional fundamental.  A mediator’s exercise of self-determination is restricted; however, self-determination in terms of a need to demonstrate competency to help disputants resolve the dispute comes into play. Actions are needed to achieve this status of self-determination in the mediator.  Therefore, the mediator’s need to control the situation can be relied upon by instilling empowerment in the disputants to move ahead.  When the mediator feels completely in control, she/he can motivate disputants to feel more interested and committed to the mediation.  While the disputants become satisfied with the mediator’s tactics, a mediator can then self-instill psychological ownership of a resolution for a job well done.  

A mediator can incorporate fair concepts in disputants to be heard and understood among themselves.  The disputants can therefore be assured that their chosen mediator can effectively bring about desired effects and outcomes in them.  This achievement can be highly effective in the mediation leading to outcomes.  Mediators will become more motivated to instill qualities in their clients to act when they as mediators feel that what they convey will have a definite effect on the outcome of the mediation.  Therefore, their psychological needs are satisfied, and their self-determination is brought to the forefront.

The mediator has a right of self-determination as to her/his stated role.  A mediator spends time and money in training and experience for the desired occupation of Conflict Resolution.  Ethics should not come into play which exceeds the professional training, experience and knowledge of the field.  The chosen mediator can undeniably refuse to be a part of a conflict setting that maybe considered impractical, unethical or unfair.  Additionally, a mediator should be able to self-determine uses of her/his professional background in settling cases that maybe appropriate, useful and relevant to the cases.  With the mediator feeling in control and intrinsically motivated, it can help the disputants feel more committed, passionate, interested, and satisfied in settling outcomes.


The role of the mediator is very consequential.  We do not want to feel completely invisible in the mediation process.  We are still in charge of the process of getting the clients to an outcome.  We have prepared the clients by supplying them pertinent information about the mediation and keeping them on target with their needs by reframing, clarifying and leading them to an outcome.  If we as mediators self-instill self-determination in ourselves, we can instill self-determination in our clients/disputants to work toward positive outcomes in reaching for hands across the table.  Disputant’s behaviors are self-determined and derives from an integrated sense of self, using valuable information to make choices and self-regulate towards chosen and reliable goals.  When the disputants have achieved some level of self-determination, we can recognize higher levels of fairness in the process and its outcomes.  Therefore, we can equally see higher levels of satisfaction with the process and satisfaction within the chosen mediator, and disputants are more likely to produce an agreement.  



Sharon Kendrick-Johnson

Sharon Kendrick-Johnson is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family and County mediator located in Miami, Florida.  She is doctoral candidate in Mediation.  Her mediation skills have taken her to the heights of mediating community, church, and domestic conflicts.  She has also mediated insurance claims, divorce, and more.  Her strengths lie… MORE >

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