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#MediationQuickTips: ‘I am nervous meeting this mediator.’ Issue 6

Mediation Quick Tips

Welcome to this ‘Mediation Quick Tips’ Newsletter Issue 6

In this newsletter I am naming some of the topics for discussion at an initial separate private meeting with each of the mediation participants.

I also introduce a template I use to record the information I get during this separate meeting in a way that focuses, yet broadens my own thinking as a mediator prior to the joint meeting.

 It is divided into three sections:

  1. Mediation Quick Tips
  2. Theory behind the Quick Tips
  3. How to apply this theory to practice
Next O’Sullivan Solutions online advanced mediation courses:

March 6, 7, 13, 14, 2024

September 19, 20, 26, 27, 2024

Irish Standard Time: / GMT: 1.30pm -5.30pm
Eastern Standard Time: 8.30am – 12.30pm
Pacific Standard Time: 5.30am – 9.30am 

1. Mediation Quick Tips

‘I am a bit nervous meeting this mediator?’

Hold comprehensive initial separate and private meetings with each of the mediation participants to prepare them and yourself for the joint meeting.  These meetings could last any time between 1 hour and 2½ hours.

2. Theory behind Mediation Quick Tips

I hold private comprehensive separate meetings for the mediation participants to build trust and rapport with me, as the mediator and to prepare them for effective engagement in the joint session with more clarity and purpose.

Initial Separate Private Meetings

In the last newsletter article, I wrote about the preparatory work that can be done, prior to the joint mediation session, by holding comprehensive initial separate meetings while sending each participant questions to reflect on prior to that initial meeting with the mediator. This prepares them to start the process of a paradigm shift in their thinking so they view the conflict in a more focussed way, as well as from a broader perspective before that first meeting with the mediator and before the joint session.

I am not going to bore you by describing the topics that need to be discussed at that meeting in reference to outlining the process of mediation, the mediation principles, the legal and ethical considerations, the roles of the mediator and the parties, the signing of the Agreement to Mediate etc.

I just want to include an outline of the content that can make a difference between having no separate meeting at all, or having just a very short introductory meeting, compared to having a comprehensive meeting.

No more walking on eggshells!
No more walking on eggshells!

3. How to apply this theory to practice?

I want to use this comprehensive process for the mediation participants to build trust and rapport with me, the mediator, and to prepare them to engage in the joint session with more clarity and purpose. Having this initial private meeting enables me to ask the type of questions that I may not be able to ask when the other party is present because of the importance of creating a safe space and ensuring that a party does not feel vulnerable.  This includes asking many of the S4 Shift Thinking Questions outlined in my book: ‘The Mediator’s Toolkit: Formulating and Asking Questions for Successful Outcomes’.

These S4 Shift Thinking questions are specifically designed to bring in more information to the process and identify any distorted thinking.

This intervention enables me:

  • To check for any misperceptions, misinterpretations and assumptions that one person may have regarding the other person and the conflict.
  • To know what each person is thinking about the other person and about the conflict.
  • To know the impact of the conflict on them and the emotions that are arising for them.
  • To facilitate the participants to vent their emotions which will support them to think more clearly and engage more rationally and logically in the joint sessions.
  • To facilitate them to identify their real underlying interests and needs and how these can be brought to the joint session.
  • To gather information about what I know, about what I don’t know and about what I don’t know I don’t know.
  • To briefly ask the mediation participants about possible solutions that might meet their needs and underlying interests?
  • To ascertain the willingness and capacity of the parties to engage constructively.
  • To challenge, test and amend my many initial hypothesis’. Remember, I need to develop a range of hypothesis and then set out to prove them incorrect in order that I am not narrowed in my own thinking and could subsequently miss something that is important to the mediation participants or process.

Template document for a mediator’s reflection after the initial private mediation session

I initially prepared this template for reflection for the participants registered on my mediation training programmes to support them to document their reflections after the private meeting in preparation for the joint session.  I had not actually used it myself as a means of writing up the notes after that first session because I thought I did not need it … ooops!

One day I decided to actually use the template in this written format and I was really surprised at the insights I gained as I was typing it up. Since then, I always use this template as a means to document and reflect on my learnings and thoughts in preparation for the joint session.

Feel free to add your own reflection headings to the template and perhaps share them in the comments?

If you would like this document in Word format so you can use it yourself to insert your findings and learnings, please do email me at:  

In the subject line, please insert the words:  ‘Template document for recording information’  

Note that you will not get an immediate reply, but I will send it to you in the next few weeks.

There may be terms I am using in the above template that are not familiar to you, but I will cover many of these terms in future published Newsletters.

However, in the meantime you can find out more about the Shift Thinking Journey of Inference questions and Cognitive Dissonance questions in the book:

‘The Mediator’s Toolkit: Formulating and Asking Questions for Successful Outcomes’, New Society Publishing, Canada.

And you are welcome to participate in the online training to develop your knowledge of the practice of these theories at a deeper level: www.osullivansolutions.ie

Next O’Sullivan Solutions online advanced mediation courses:

March 6, 7, 13, 14, 2024

September 19, 20, 26, 27, 2024

Irish Standard Time: / GMT: 1.30pm -5.30pm
Eastern Standard Time: 8.30am – 12.30pm
Pacific Standard Time: 5.30am – 9.30am 

Remember that the resources and discounts gifted to you after you subscribed to O’Sullivan Solutions can be accessed through the link
sent to you on your initial confirmation e-mail.

Thank you,
Gerry