Mediators’ Personality – Does it Matter?

Posted on 09/11/2015 · Posted in Mediation

Like a judge, a mediator is an objective third party in the dispute resolution process. But the similarities end there. A mediator is not there to pass judgement on or settle a dispute, but rather to facilitate an agreement or settlement amongst the disputing parties. It is true that a positive outcome depends largely on the willingness of both parties to come to an agreement. In addition to this, great responsibility should be attributed to the mediator to remain neutral, build rapport with both parties and listen carefully to either side so that they may come to an agreement.

To that end, does a mediator’s personality matter? Yes. Mediators vary as much as human beings and a mediator’s particular personality can make the difference between a successful and efficient mediation where all parties are satisfied with the outcome, and an unsuccessful one.

First impressions

We are all guilty of judging a book by its cover, but a mediator needs to make a good first impression. A professional, confident and organised appearance from the outset will give disputing parties confidence in the mediator’s credibility and set proceedings off to a positive start.


It is essential that a mediator is good at building trust. In dispute resolution proceedings emotions may run high and each party may come to the table with certain preconceptions or concerns. A mediator needs to demonstrate from the outset that he or she is experienced, knowledgeable and objective. It is important that parties choose their mediator carefully as mediators may vary depending on their professional experience. It is advisable that mediators have some knowledge of the field of the dispute in question, be that property agreements, civil cases or intellectual property to name a few.

To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.”
George MacDonald


It is very important from a client point of view that the mediator treats them with respect. Parties are understandably sensitive to this as he or she may be the first “outsider” to hear their case. Party members will quickly pick up if the mediator thinks they are exaggerating or being irrational. The mediator does not have to agree with the values, opinions or behaviour of the participants, but must simply accept each person as an equal human being and have a genuine interest in communicating with that person. An effective mediator will assume the goodwill of the participants and make an effort to suspend all of his or her critical judgments. A mediator can demonstrate his or her respect by using appropriate language, maintaining eye contact with their clients and being tactful when discussing more sensitive aspects of the case. A mediator, as such, should allow plenty of time for resting periods should clients become exhausted or emotional and a mediator should be careful never to prod if their client is showing resistance.


How might a mediator stay impartial considering that we are all conditioned by our environment, relationships and experience? With this in mind, it proves that it is very difficult to come to any situation without subjectivity affecting both our attitudes and actions. It is important to remember that dispute resolution practitioners are humans. As such they are liable to the same prejudices as all other humans, these may be in relation to gender, race, profession, economic status, age, religion, and other groupings. However, successful mediators must recognise where their own prejudices lie and work hard to make sure that they don’t let them come in the way of acting always with professionalism.


A mediator needs to have exceptional listening skills, be able to understand, digest and evaluate the detailed evidence or information being put before him or her. The right listening skills will also help a mediator understand the mood and psychology of each party, all crucial subtleties that help the mediator do their job. One very noticeable clue that may help one determine whether their mediator has such listening skills is if he or she remembers everyone by name. In doing so, the mediator transforms his or her clients from a headcount into a real human being with interests, ideas and opinions.

Showing Initiative

A mediator doesn’t just need to be a good listener, but just as importantly needs to step in when needed. Because facilitation is such a key component in the mediation process, the mediator needs to be able to get to grips with the situation quickly and show initiative by facilitating both parties towards potential creative solutions or options.


A mediator must be extremely patient, especially in cases where communication has broken down and there is a lack of co-operation among parties. A healthy dose of stoicism can therefore make the difference between an average mediator and an excellent one.

Mediation is now a proven and highly effective method of dispute resolution, but the personality of the mediator is a crucial component to effective dispute resolution. Read more in How to Choose a Mediator

For directory of articles on mediation services please click here.

Expert Evidence Limited is a professional firm concentrating on the four main areas of dispute resolution; acting as expert witnesses in financial litigation, mediation, arbitration and adjudication. The firm has a civil, criminal and international practice and has advised in many recent cases. Areas of specialisation include banking, lending, regulation, investment, and tax.

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Disclaimer – Please confirm any of the above views with your solicitor. Expert Evidence takes no responsibility or provides any guarantee that the views above are correct for your particular case or jurisdiction.