Mediation Preparation: 4 Ways to Prepare Your Client to Speak up

Why is mediation preparation important? Mediation allows parties to have a discussion and possibly develop a solution to the dispute. The assistance of a skilled and experienced mediator helps to provide the parties with a facilitator who can assure a neutral environment. Mediators also help both sides explore options and use proven techniques to overcome impasse.

A good mediator empowers the parties to come up with a solution tailored to their needs. In addition, each side has an opportunity to vent and have their feelings acknowledged. Speaking during a mediation session is vital to the overall process: it allows clients to move forward emotionally and psychologically. Talking during a mediation session helps to shift focus from blame, battle, and defense to problem-solving solutions.

It is crucial that, as an attorney, you encourage your client to speak up during the mediation. Preparing your client well will ultimately do wonders to help promote a successful mediation. Consider these tips on mediation preparation to help your client speak during an upcoming session:

Explain the Mediation Process Well

While it does take some extra time, it is crucial to make sure that your client understands how a mediation session works. Explaining the mediation process to a client will better prepare them for the sessions and alleviate some natural fears or worries.

Be thorough in your explanation and discuss the roles of each of the expected participants. Consider sharing printed materials with clients so that they can take them home to look over. Online videos are also helpful in sharing what a mediation session looks like to prepare clients.

Be Firm in Your Expectations

Your client doesn’t know what you are thinking and doesn’t have the mediation experience that you have. Make sure to go over what you expect of them during the mediation process. Set clear guidelines and coach your client on their wording and demeanor.

Consider practicing different scenarios with your client to help them get comfortable with the process. Take the time to walk through a mock mediation session with multiple characters representing what could happen. Touch on the opening part of the mediation as well as what it will be like when each side is allowed to speak and caucus.

Make Your Client Comfortable

While mediation sessions are often a good experience for both sides, they are nerve-racking for those who have never experienced them. Do everything within your power to help make your client comfortable within the session. Here are some common things to consider when making your client comfortable:

  • Do they have any special needs or preferences?
  • Do they smoke and would require smoke breaks?
  • Can your client sit for long periods of time?
  • Does your client have hearing or speaking impediments that could limit their ability to engage?
  • Would your client prefer having notes or reminders with them during the mediation?
  • Would your client benefit from a specific seating arrangement to help them participate more?

Keeping your client comfortable is key to calming their nerves and helping them participate during the mediation process. Remove any obstacles that could hinder their thought process or shut down their emotions.

Share Results of Other Mediations

Again, many clients may have little to no experience in the mediation process. Help encourage your client by sharing other mediations with them. Perhaps find a mediation that was similar to the client’s case and how the client’s participation impacted the process.

While it is helpful to show a positive mediation outcome, some clients may also need to see what can happen in a mediation that isn’t as great. Showing clients how their interaction can impact the outcome, either positively or negatively, is essential in mediation preparation.

Preparing your client to talk during mediation is the best way to find a solution. A mediator’s job is to get each side to speak in a controlled environment. If you do all of the talking for your client, progress may stall or even come to a complete halt.

Preparing your client to speak up for themselves during the mediation process will also speed up the resolution process. Make sure that your client is well prepared for their upcoming mediation session by going through these 4 ways they can speak up to make their opinion heard.

If you are a client needing mediation with a dispute, contact our office today for more information about how we can help you.

Donita King

Ms. King is a member of the Virginia, Pennsylvania, and D.C. State Bars. She also serves as a University of Richmond School of Law Adjunct Professor of Mediation. She previously served on the Virginia Bar Association Joint ADR Council (2015 Chair), and served for several years on the Governor of Virginia’s Interagency Dispute Resolution Council. Ms. King currently serves as a board member of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board by appointment of the Virginia Supreme Court and has been active with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Women in Business as well. Se habla espanol.

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