About Mediator Styles and Philosophy

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Mediation success depends in part on the chose of mediator.
Finding a mediator who has the approach and style that
matches your wants and needs can tip the scales toward a
favorable outcome for you both. You owe it to yourself
to spend some time analyzing, investigating and selecting the
right mediator.

Standing at the Crossroads

The best approach for your mediation is a philosophy that meets your circumstances and expectations for resolving the dispute. Most mediators will give you a free half hour consultation. Use it. During that time you can discuss and get a feel for how the mediator is likely to function during your mediation.

The mediator's philosophy describes both the mediator's style and how s/he plans to interact with you. Some mediators put a premium on reaching agreement, while others focus on empowering you both. These practices are typically ones that the mediator has found to be effective in the past. Neither is wrong, just different. Mediation philosophy should bring to light what the mediator believes the process can do for you, how s/he will do it and why mediation is a good idea.

Most philosophies include:

  • Client Empowerment

  • Confidentiality

  • Effectiveness

  • Neutrality

  • Ownership

The methodology that the mediator's philosophy describes usually is identified with one of the three following styles.

Styles of Mediation

Evaluative Mediation is modeled on the settlement conference judges hold prior to trial to explore whether the case can be settled. An evaluative mediator provides neutral, third party feedback about the weaknesses of your case. S/he may predict what a judge or jury would be likely to do. The mediator will often make formal or informal suggestion to you about the likely result of specific issues. Evaluative mediators are concerned with the legal rights of you both rather than your interests or needs.

Consequently the mediator must have substantive knowledge and/or legal competence. S/he makes their evaluation based on legal concepts of fairness. Evaluative mediations most often occur in the main in separate meetings (known as caucuses) with each of you, practicing "shuttle diplomacy". S/he helps you evaluate your legal position and the costs vs. benefits of pursuing legal resolution rather than settling in mediation. The evaluative mediator organizing the process, and influencing the outcome. Most evaluative mediators are attorneys.

Facilitative Mediation was the first style of mediation to gain widespread acceptance. In facilitative mediation, the mediator shapes the process to support you in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution. The facilitative mediator asks questions; authenticates and normalizes your point of view; searches for interests underneath the positions taken by you both; and helps you to create and, then, examine options for resolution.

S/he does not make recommendations a particular solution to you, give advice, express an opinion about the outcome of the case, or forecast what a court would do in your case. You are in charge of the outcome, while the mediator is in charge of the process. Because facilitative mediators want to ensure that agreements are made through information and understanding, they mainly hold joint sessions with you both so that you can hear each other's points of view. They may also hold caucuses.

Their goal is to have you exert major influence on decisions made. They don't need to be subject matter experts and many are not attorneys. Most mediator training teach this style, thus it is s the most popular style practiced by the majority of mediators.


Transformative Mediation is the newest of the three,. It is based on the principles of "empowerment" as much as possible, and "recognition" by each of the other's needs, interests, values and viewpoint. Transformative mediation holds the potential of transforming each of you and/or your relationship during the mediation. Transformative mediators meet with you in joint sessions, since only each of you can give the other "recognition". In transformative mediation, you both build the process and the outcome, and the mediator follows your


It has proven helpful for mediators to discuss their style(s), and the assumptions and values these styles are based on before the mediation. This allows you to be a better informed and more satisfied consumer.

To learn more about mediation, click on any of the links below.

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