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The Way Mediators Ask Questions Is Absolutely Front And Centre To What We Do

When I’m training I often hold up an ordinary object, whatever happens to be about like a stapler or a chair, and ask people to fire questions at me about it.

Through that simple exercise, ahead of many others, I can often recognise the future mediators in the room.

The future mediators will, instinctively, ask skeptical and conversational questions.

They will be ignorant (real or professed) of the truth about that chair or stapler and they will be tentative and provisional, but their questions will be custom built and bespoke.

Above all, they will be Socratic.

Socratic Questions fall into 6 categories:

1. Questions for clarification
Why do you say that?
How does this relate to our discussion?
“Are you going to include the fact that… in your logic?”
2. Questions that probe assumptions
What could we assume instead?
How can you verify or disapprove that assumption?
“Why are neglecting this figure and including only that one?”
3. Questions that probe reasons and evidence
What would be an example?
What is….analogous to?
What do you think causes to happen…? Why:?
“Do you think that X is responsible for the fact that…?”
4. Questions about Viewpoints and Perspectives
What would be an alternative?
What is another way to look at it?
Would you explain why it is necessary or beneficial, and who benefits?
Why is the best?
What are the strengths and weaknesses of…?
How are…and …similar?
What is a counterargument for…?
5. Questions that probe implications and consequences
What generalizations can you make?
What are the consequences of that assumption?
What are you implying?
How does…affect…?
How does…tie in with what we learned before?
6. Questions about the question
What was the point of this question?
Why do you think I asked this question?
What does…mean?
How does…apply to everyday life?

                        author

Geoff Sharp

Geoff Sharp is a Commercial Mediator from Wellington, New Zealand. Geoff works in the Asia Pacific region, including New Zealand, Malaysia, Thailand and Pacific Islands. He is a mediator resolving business problems. He is a fellow of the International Academy of Mediators and mediates complex and hotly debated litigation covering… MORE >

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