Firstly, there are no trick questions. You are not being cross examined. You are not being judged. The mediator’s role is to facilitate the mediation process. This means trying to ensure that everyone attending is in the best position possible to secure a settlement. There are no right nor wrong answers.
The mediator is present to help you. At the outset of the mediation, the mediator will be keen to know if you understand the mediation process and have everything you need to reach a settlement. It is your dispute and your mediation.
It is important that you have prepared, read through the information provided by the mediator beforehand and are ready to ask any questions you have with the mediation process at the outset if not before the day of the mediation.
When everyone has arrived and is settled, the mediator will want to hear about the dispute from your perspective and understand what is important to you. These questions are likely to cover the following topics:-
- what has happened to date,
- the cause of the conflict,
- the people involved and your relationship with them,
- any further background or context to the dispute that may be relevant, and
- what, if any, attempts there have been to resolve the dispute before the mediation.
There may be some follow up questions to clarify points raised or obtain further information.
During private meetings with the mediator, none of the discussion is communicated to the other party. It remains confidential between you, anyone accompanying you and the mediator.
As the mediation moves from this initial exploration, the mediator’s questions will become more targeted towards the negotiations and in particular the scope of any settlement.
They may relate to information that you would like to know in order to move forward, or relate to details that the other party have requested to assist them make or consider an offer.
Expect thought provoking questions, ones that test your position at times by way of a reality check and that introduce new aspects to consider. Part of the mediator’s role is to act as a coach. As with any coach, there are always times when it is necessary to step back and reflect upon a position before deciding how to move forward and the mediator continues to do this through the mediation process whilst not breaching confidentiality. There will also be times when a mediator will ask you if information discussed can be disclosed to the other party as it may be helpful.
Questions from a mediator can often help to identify new ways of thinking, potential flaws in your position or a clearer understanding as to what may happen if the dispute is not resolved at mediation.
When asking questions, the mediator is not assessing your position but rather enabling you to review your case privately and provide the space, time and opportunity for any solutions that have not been considered before to come to the fore. The best advice is to work with your mediator, responding to the questions and be open to consider settlement options.