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So You Want to Be a Mediator (Peace Maker)?

By Dr. James Y Lin, Certified Mediator & Trainer, USA

"Blessed are the peacemakers on earth" --William Shakespeare

"Mediation brings wisdom; lack of mediation leaves ignorance," Buddha spoke in 5th BC. Human conflict is inevitable but preventable. Mediation is the most preferred strategy for handling human conflict, thus achieving amicable harmony between two or more parties in conflict. Be it an international crisis, a workplace conflict, a community dispute or even a family quarrel, mediation provides the hope for international peace, workplace tolerance, community coherence and family harmony. So, mediation is an art for people management and a science that can be learned in mediation training. It is the newest and fastest-growing career development and practice in the USA. We all know that coercive management no longer works, and consultative communication makes for a healthy workplace and a happy workforce. Managers, supervisors and HR staff are seeking mediation competency for effective negotiation, arbitration and counseling. Mediation also heals unhappy families and disunified communities. Hence, mediation training is an essential tool for saving millions in legal costs in the business world, and mending broken families in our life today.

Mediation practices cover vast areas. For example: international peace talks, community arbitration, workplace negotiation, family counseling, etc. But let's focus on the workplace conflicts. Downsizing, flatter hierarchies, team-building, quality consciousness, and multiple responsibilities are intensifying the interdependency between employees and employees and management. Most organizations do not adequately equip their staff to effectively negotiate work relationships in these challenging times. Studies indicate that mediation helps to resolve 75% of the conflicts in the workplace quickly and with little escalation. Comparing with the possible legal costs and lost of human resource, mediation is by far the most cost effective and amicable tool to obtain mutual agreement among opposing parties.

Mediators are often called middle men, trouble shooters , referees , ombudsmen and affectionately also called peace makers. They try to bridge between two or more parties who are in dispute. Be it an inter- or intra-organizational dispute, opposing businesses, management and HR personnel, employers and employees, family and individuals, there are mediation techniques to identify, isolate and resolve conflicts early. Mediation is widely practiced for legal, civil, business, family and individual disputes related to unlimited nature of crisis. You are a middle person who aims to discover some creative and fair way to settle differences while avoiding legal or hostile actions.

There are three basic qualifications. In order of importance:

  1. Personality qualification: You must have an open mind, unbiased, creative personality for a problem-based and solution-focused attitude. You are empathic, passionate, caring and dedicated to human well-being and business fairness.

  2. Professional competency: Different countries have different requirements for professional and educational standards. The majority require adequate knowledge of general psychology, organizational dynamics, family and social relations, human management etc. If you happened to have professional training and practice background as psychologist, social worker, counselor, and business strategist, you have a good foundation to add mediation training upon.

  3. People-focused passion: So you already have personality qualifications and professional competency. Last but not least is having a passion for working with people that will enhance and integrate the other two. Many mediation processes are based on psychology, applied to a wide range of human and life experiences. Whether you mediate conflicts related to power, profit, property, etc, you still mediate the people.
Because Mediation is becoming a separate professional competency, it requires special training and coaching as preparatory requirement for professional licensing in some areas. There are accredited mediation training institutes in the USA that offer certification on short and long courses to corporate staff and other professionals. Most of the training is focused on local legal markets and others are more generic. There are also mediation societies for maintaining high standards of mediation practices.

One must pursue professional training and certification as well as being accepted into mediation societies to uphold the mediation qualification. For example, Manager-as-Mediator Certificate Workshop puts the tools of the professional mediator into the hands of your managers to build better workplace relationships, enhance performance, improve productivity, and cut the unnecessary financial costs of workplace conflict. So mediation training has been mushrooming in the US. For a simple reason: most workplaces would rather spend their dollars for preventive mediation and proactive crisis resolution than for lawyers, union negotiations, and government labor board hearings. It is not only saving costs, but also preserving priceless human resources.

Aspiring mediators are seeking professional training in mediation, and also looking into professional certification in mediation. There is ample opportunity to engage your mediation skills in wide areas of practice.

As mentioned above, mediation can apply to a wide range of situations. Some mediators choose to specialize in family disputes (divorce, custody, assets, and children); others are in business arbitration (acquisition, merging, rivalry, legal, liability); still others are in civil conflict (neighborhood, civil right, injury) etc. The newest branch in mediation is conducting training for corporate management and HR groups to increase their mediation competency for internal crisis.

In terms of tangible rewards in the mediation profession, many large corporations are willing to hire competent mediators to manage their internal and external disputes. They in turn save costs and time rather than risking possible legal action. They also value their human talent so to retain them by minimizing conflict within the corporation. On family, personal and civil disputes, most people have opted for mediation on their dining table for amicable solutions while avoiding costly courtroom disputes and damaged family relationships.

There are intangible rewards too, by feeling helpful to suffering people and problem situations. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing that people are happy again and companies moving ahead again. The relative value of these rewards depends on the mediator's personal values and mission.

A famous lawyer and peacemaker, Abraham Lincoln said: "Discourage litigations, persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can."

"When do you need a mediator?" is a frequently asked question. It is just like in physical sickness, "When do you need to see a doctor?" The question of when and why is crucial to the healing of people and workplaces in conflict.

It is predicted that business, family and civil conflicts in the Asian societies will be increasingly in need of professional mediation, because the old conflict resolution methods are neither suitable nor practical today. There have been increasing unpleasant incidents in neighborhood squabbles, lawsuits among family flesh and blood, soaring divorces and fights for child custody. And, in the corporate arena, there are mushrooming internal conflicts in the workplaces. The loss of productivity, human resources and company profitability are getting worse, and more is yet to come.


  • when you detect early signs of conflict: incommunicable, avoidance, back-stabbing.
  • when you see hostile behavior and you sense a negative attitude -when you witness frequent interpersonal squabbles
  • when you encounter frequent difficult incidences among the employees
  • when you are feared by your employees
  • when you fail to persuade employees to change their work performance
  • when you lose support from your superior and/or subordinates
  • when you encounter frequent resistance and passive-aggressive behaviors
  • for preventing crisis escalation and legal costs
  • for retaining valuable human resource and talent
  • for maintaining internal organization integrity and security
  • for enjoying a happy organizational family
  • for discovering better solutions
  • for avoiding loss of productivity and profitability
  • when you alienate each other in prolonged silence
  • when family members avoid each other with a cold war attitude
  • when your marriage is going downhill, caused by distrust, hatred, infidelity
  • when your young children are failing in school and misbehave at home
  • when your adolescent children get into petty crimes
  • before your family goes to court to fight for financial heritage, child custody etc.
  • Before hostile behavior and abusive gestures get out of hands
  • offer opportunities for the family to communicate again
  • minimize hostility and maximize listening between parties
  • manage offers and counter offers between parties amicably
  • help give unbiased, non-judgmental opinions
  • prevent escalating hostility
  • persuade fair acceptance of decisions
  • impart legal information and knowledge to all parties for reference
  • maintain aftermath communication for all parties
  • seek a reputable and experienced mediator through court and business referrals
  • give a preview of the conflict and see if the mediator is motivated to take on the case
  • prefer a mediator who has psychological and legal studies
  • be cooperative, honest and willing to negotiate yourself.
  • what's fair is fair, even disagreement
  • can expect a fair deal
  • can let the mediator win for you
  • can relieve your stress by solving the conflict
  • can help you to see from the other's point of view
  • can give you more creative options towards solutions
  • cannot expect the mediation to make decision for you
  • cannot blame the mediator if things turn the other way
  • cannot manipulate the mediator for your gains
  • cannot expect the mediator to take sides
In summary, whenever there are two or more people doing business or are engaged in some form of relations, with intent or not, disagreement, conflict and crisis may happen. In family conflicts and workplace alike, we have high prices to pay for conflicts. It is evident that prevention is less costly than curing any situation. Mediation is the preventive option that makes people and situations tolerable and even acceptable. Give peace a chance that will give you peace of mind! A mediator's calling is noble and rewarding; mediation is the shortest way to harmony.
About the writer
James Y Lin, Ph.D. is a corporate wellness psychologist, Trainer, and Humorist, and Certified Stressologist, Mediator for workplace conflict, with 24 years of training and consulting experience for East and West multi-national companies. As the president and CEO of the QLQ International (USA, Asia-Pacific), he enjoys commuting, working and living between USA and Asia.

An expert in developing customized training programs, he is also a sought-after creative and entertaining convention motivational speaker with a touch of humor. He is a frequent participant in public media (TV and radio talk shows) and a writer for news papers and magazines. Well traveled and has a global cross cultural mindset.

His unique training style "Traintertainment" is combining serious training and fun entertaining for the maximum learning experience. His mission is to help to transform people and organizations for their best performance, success and satisfaction.

Dr. Lin's Mottos: 'Love what I do and do what I love'. 'Dare to be different to make a difference.'

Copyright 2005 QLQ International. All Rights Reserved.

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