Mediator Skillsets: Active Listening

Some of the most important tools that your Massachusetts mediator can bring to the table are his or her advanced active listening skills. These are skills that can be developed with practice, but that are difficult for many people to master. Patience, practice and time all combine to help the most effective mediators approach complex conflicts with care using active listening skills.

While passive listening involves simply hearing the message of the other person speaking, active listening refers to situations where the listener fully concentrates on the message being shared by the other person. This involves engagement with all of the senses, so that the individual speaking knows the message is being heard and considered thoughtfully. It may sound like psychobabble, but experience shows that active listening really does make a difference in many different contexts.

Mediators are trained to be good at active listening, because they must be able to understand the perspectives of all the people involved in a conflict and serve as a translator between them. Mediators are also effective at using the information heard to generate feedback, including follow-up questions, acknowledgement of feelings (particularly in family disputes) and suggestions for where the conversation goes next. Successfully managing the direction of the conversation helps avoid sticking points and empowers all parties with the most effective use of their time. This feedback and conversation management gives both parties the confidence and space to speak freely and honestly about their concerns.

Listening is the essential foundation of communication, and active listening helps mediators navigate clients through complicated and difficult conversations. When considering a potential mediator, evaluate his or her ability to listen actively as you conduct the initial interview. Active listening skills across the board are a strong indication of top mediator qualities.