Written by: Kimberley Van Buuren

Following a recent mediation, one of the parties shared the following comments:

Thank you for being a fabulous mediator, not just because the outcome was in our favour, but because you made us feel comfortable in an uncomfortable situation and directed the meeting well.

While it was lovely to receive such appreciate feedback, the message was clear – EMPATHY was key to a successful experience for the parties, regardless of the outcome of the mediation.

To that end, what makes empathy particularly important in mediations?

Understanding Perspectives:
  • a mediator is able to better understand and acknowledge the perspectives and feelings of all parties involved, regardless of whether they agree with them.
  • empathy is helpful in allowing a dialogue to continue, especially in uncomfortable settings. By providing an environment where the parties feel secure and comfortable, the mediation process is able to unfold, leading to a higher likelihood of success.
The Process:
  • mediation is a process involving humans, meaning it is helpful to remember that everyone involved has thoughts, comments, perspectives and feelings, all of which may assist or detract from the mediation process.
  • a mediator who can navigate these “behind the scenes” themes, may be helpful in reaching a resolution that works for all parties.

Empathy does not mean “giving in” or “giving up” on a particular position.

Empathy can help create a more welcoming environment to engage in a tough discussion, to understand others’ perspectives, and to potentially be open to considerations or avenues for resolution that had not previously been contemplated.