Connections No.1 page 1 page 2 page 3 page 4 page 5 page 6 page 7 Back to Publications Page
Feature Article

What Makes Mediation Meaningful for Participants?

A Look at Underlying Principles of Victim Offender Mediation

Victim offender mediation continues to impress practitioners and participants alike with its potential to touch, to heal, to bring about positive change. Many in the field have pondered this transformative dimension, asking themselves: "What are the ingredients that produce such impactful results?"

Here are some possibilities:

Telling Stories: The "personal" is powerful - genuine stories of people's experience and personal responses may evoke acceptance, empathy, and acknowledgement, insight and learning about self and other. The telling and hearing of these stories can be empowering, healing, and transformative for both storyteller and listener, as they engage in direct dialogue without undue intervention by the mediator.

Structure: Appropriate structure (eg. neutral third party facilitation, procedural guidelines, relaxed setting, intentional seating plan) can help to neutralize status and power and to promote mutuality, thus encouraging a safe environment conducive to dialogue, even in emotionally intense situations.

Personal Responsibility and Empowerment: Providing the parties with the opportunity to "own" their actions and feelings, express their wants and needs, and then act on their own behalf facilitates a sense of personal power and responsibility. Presenting choices to the parties whenever possible (e.g., when and where to meet) also maximizes their capacity to feel empowered by the process. Human beings possess untapped inner resources that with encouragement may be elicited and utilized to address issues and resolve problems of importance to them.

Cooperation and Creativity: Discovering and communicating underlying information, needs, and interests can promote a collaborative spirit and encourage more satisfying results. Differences and conflicts can elicit creativity and a sense of possibilities otherwise unknown.

Agreements: Well-written agreements (e.g., clear, concrete, achievable/durable, accurate, personalized, reflective of the parties' interests and needs) guide and focus behavior, thereby generating and enhancing results.

Preparation: Preparation is essential. Preparation with each party increases the potential effectiveness of the mediation session, by providing information, validating the parties' experiences and feelings, engaging in dialogue about possible risks and benefits of mediation, supporting individual decision-making, and establishing rapport and trust. Self-awareness, inner quieting, and personal focus enhance the preparedness of the mediator to facilitate the dialogue between the parties.

Mediator's Style: The mediator's presence (attitude, demeanor, focus, integrity, rapport with the parties) plays an important role in creating a safe space where genuine conversation between the parties may occur. Flexibility on the part of the mediator will allow the mediation process to be shaped by the needs of the parties. The use of specific techniques and strategies by the mediator must serve the larger goal of creating an environment in which respectful dialogue can occur. It is not necessary for the mediator or the parties to have answers and solutions before they begin the session. Mediators who trust themselves, their integrity, intuition, skills, and preparedness, and also trust the process and the participants, pave the way for meaningful interaction.

by Jean E. Greenwood, M.Div
VOMA Recommended Ethical Guidelines Available

VOMA has recently completed Recommended Ethical Guidelines. For a copy of the complete Guidelines, see the link above for Acrobat, Word and WordPerfect versions, or contact VOMA.

Connections No.1 page 1 page 2 page 3 page 4 page 5 page 6 page 7 Back to Publications Page

© 1999 Victim Offender Mediation Association