Being a professional mediator is all about conflict resolution, and so the job demands a
person with excellent reasoning, problem-solving, and peace-making abilities. When two parties
have a dispute and wish to avoid the legal intricacies of litigation, they may call in a mediator
to facilitate an equitable solution. While many are suspicious of lawyers and attorneys,
mediators are more often attributed with qualities of wisdom, trustworthiness, and neutrality.
Unlike lawyers and judges, who evaluate, assess, and decide for others,mediators help participating
parties evaluate, assess, and decide for themselves. Parties wishing to avoid the
delays, high costs, publicity, and ill will brought on by
litigation look to mediators as a more peaceful, inexpensive,
and expedient alternative.
The mediator’s job is to listen, sort through differences between the two parties involved
in a dispute, and find common ground upon which to ascertain a solution. A good mediator
is honest, neutral, and encouraging; listens well; and has excellent communication skills.
Helping two parties arrive at a mutually agreeable solution also takes a fair amount of creativity.
Mediation is considered a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Although
ADR sounds like a terrible syndrome, it’s in fact a more Zenlike approach to conflict resolution,
with mediators as the master practitioners. Corporations, government agencies, community
organizations, schools, neighborhoods, and even families will turn to mediators when
they seek mutually acceptable answers to their problems. Examples of conflicts they work to
resolve include labor/management issues, health care disputes, environmental/public policy
issues, and international conflicts.
The educational background of a professional mediator varies widely. A fair number in
the field hold law degrees, while others may not even hold a bachelor’s degree. Most important
is an education in mediation, whether taken as part of an undergraduate degree or as
individual training courses. University degrees in public policy, law, and related fields also
provide helpful backgrounds. While few states require licenses or certification to practice
mediation, most individuals in the profession have completed training and pledged to abide
by certain ethical standards.
Lawyers, religious leaders, social workers, counselors, and educators are often called on
to mediate. Judges and magistrates also play the role of mediator. Strong mediators have
many possible professions open to them, including diplomats and politicians.