As a volunteer mediator at CCR, you are aware that the objective of facilitative mediation isn’t to come to an arrangement, however, to have a successful dialog. There is hope that the mediation procedure will create an arrangement, but that result is held lightly during the mediation. If an effective conversation is your target, then your queries should efficiently evoke a significant exchange between the parties. However, how can you ask effective questions?
Open-ended = open up
If you’d like a person to be open about their ideas or opinions, ask an open-ended query. An open-ended question is a question that elicits a story response instead of a straightforward yes/no response. It invites someone to respond with a narrative.
An effective mediator actively listens to the answer
If you’re doing your work as a mediator, you are going to spend the majority of your time listening and only a small number of it speaking. To successfully listen, you have to actively listen.
- Staying present while the individual is talking. Focusing on what the individual is saying instead of concentrating on what you will say next (or even the conversation you’ve had at breakfast, or your grocery list). This is more difficult than it sounds and requires practice.
- Maintaining eye contact with the individual who is talking. Eye contact can do wonders toward focusing your attention in addition to showing the person that you are actually listening to them.
- Summarizing to verify and clarify your understanding before moving on to another question. Summarizing ensures your next question is on stage since it contrasts with what has already been said.
Curiosity is good
It is said that curiosity killed the cat, but not for the mediator. Follow your interest. This flows naturally out of involved listening. In case you’re paying careful consideration, you may typically have queries based on what you have heard. Pay attention to all those questions and go ahead verbalize them. And keep in mind, there aren’t any stupid questions in mediation.
You can lead a horse to water…
Avoid leading questions that suggest the response in the question. In fact, these are not questions but statements disguised as a query. A good example of a leading question may be, “You reside on Lake St, right?” Rather than this query, “Where are you reside?” Notice that questions of this type are also frequently closed-ended questions that don’t encourage elaboration.
Bear in mind, your principal job is to get space for a productive dialog involving the parties to this conflict. Your main tool for doing so is powerful questions. Keep those queries, actively listen, follow your curiosity, and do not lead with your questions. Doing this will make sure that even if the parties don’t arrive in a resolution, they’ve had a favorable experience.