Ba gua for mediators by Sala Sihombing

Sala Sihombing

Just as a bā guà map guides fēng shuĭ practitioners, mediators seek the appropriate direction to bring resolution to conflict. Although there are as many styles of mediation as there are mediators, there are principles that can help guide all of us to a resolution. What are the eight aspects for mediators? 


Without trust there can be no meaningful progress in the mediation.  Skilled mediators are adept at creating relationships with parties.  Given the constraints of a mediation, this may develop through modeling respectful behavior, listening with attention and interest and demonstrating credibility.  Establishing trust is the priority in any mediation.  It may begin prior to commencing the mediation, as the mediator works with the parties to co-ordinate the mediation itself. 


The statement “I don’t know” is a powerful tool for mediators to consider using. The simplicity of this statement belies its power.  It signals an humility about the way in which the mediator is approaching the conflict.  The mediation is not an opportunity for the mediator to showboat but for the parties to reach an agreement.  It is both their opportunity and obligation to do so.  It also acknowledges the truth that the mediator does not know the answer.  


Without a doubt, one of the key requirements for a mediator is courage. Mediators need the courage to ask difficult questions, the courage to believe in the possibility of a mediated solution in the face of intransigent conflict. 


Sensing the change in the parties and selecting the appropriate mediator tool at the right time depends on mindfulness. This is where the skill of the mediator to gauge not just the temperature of the parties but of the process comes into play.  There may be a moment when a judicious word or silence, can turn the party from venting to collaborating.  A mindful mediator is aware of the rhythm of the mediation and can grasp the moment.


A key skill for mediation is committed listening.  Mediators can demonstrate committed listening by listening carefully; paying attention to their own body language; and not interrupting the parties.Listening also serves as reminder to the mediator that this is the parties dispute.  If you are listening then you are not talking.  In addition, listening is another key way in which the mediator can demonstrate respect for the parties and their stories. 


By remaining curious about the parties and the process, a mediator can maintain his interest and work to hone his abilities to seek positions and interests. Often the parties have become so attached to their anger and frustration that their original motivations are forgotten.

#7 ANGEL OF REALITY (term of art from Professor Jim Craven): Léi Lightning

Mediation training encourages mediators to become adept at asking questions. The use of questions in mediation can assist parties to challenge their assumptions and prejudices. Parties may construct an identity, which includes their dispute, for example, if they feel that they are the victim in the situation. By reminding parties that they are not just a victim, that there are other uses for their time and energy, a mediator can reiterate the reality of their life beyond the conflict.


Neutrality may be an impossible goal, but ensuring procedural fairness and symmetry of treatment should be within the power of the mediator to achieve.

© Conflict Change Consulting Ltd.  2014