Letter to the editor: Most mediators remain neutral
To the editor of Columbus CEO:
We in the mediation community thank you for your article "Can we talk?" in the March 2014 issue of Columbus CEO promoting the benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution. However, there are several items which call for a response.
The first is the statement "A mediator can be a lawyer or a judicial officer." That may be true, but only if they have mediation training and experience. Mediation is not the practice of law but rather an entirely different skill set. Some of the most successful mediators come from professions including teaching, nursing, social work (counselors and therapists) and other fields. The 150-member Ohio Mediation Association is made up of skilled mediators from a variety of disciplines, including law.
Second, attorney Frank Ray states, "It can be difficult to hear a mediator's opinion." That is a surprising statement because almost all mediators practice a facilitative style, which means the mediator helps guide the parties in search of their solution but doesn't offer opinions, legal or financial advice or even an indication of who (from the mediator's viewpoint) might be right or wrong. Perhaps Mr. Ray practices evaluative mediation, where opinions are expressed, but by far most mediators help the parties reach their own conclusions by being facilitative and neutral. Facilitated resolutions, because they are designed solely by the parties, are more likely to hold over time.
Third, Attorney Steve Chappelear states, "And there are some cases where there's just so much baggage and emotion that it has to go to court. That happens more often with family disputes than with businesses."
Experienced mediators have received hundreds of hours of training in mediating with highly positional, highly emotional people and often have thousands of hours of at-the-table experience. In my 20 years of mediating, I have had numerous occasions where people entered the room so angry they couldn't look at each other, only to end up shaking hands three hours later. In an imposed court decision, there are winners and losers; a preferable solution for an emotional situation is to have the parties reach their own conclusion, with all sides having a share in designing the outcome. Family disputes — elder care being a prime example — are far better resolved at the mediation table than in court.
Edward M. Krauss
Ohio Mediation Association