Mediation: The Skill of Empathic Listening


Mediation and Empathetic Listening Part One

Today, I start a three part series of blogs about the skill of Empathic Listening when mediating for conflict resolution. Being able to listen “empathically” may be the most useful tool a mediator has.  Being able to truly understand people’s point of view can go a long way to helping them reach a resolution.  Listening with “empathy” is different from listening with “sympathy”.

If I listen with “sympathy” to someone in conflict, I will share in their emotion. I will take part of it.  While that may make one, or both, feel better.  Sympathy will do little for establishing a constructive strategy to deal with issues.  Simply put, if I have sympathy, I share in someones emotion.  The result will be that now both of us will feel that emotion.  Not very helpful to creating a positive conflict resolution.

When I listen with “empathy” I seek to deepen my understanding of that person.  I listen to better understand their needs, their hopes, their fears.  I really need to be able to “walk in their shoes.”  I am not sharing emotions as one would with sympathy. I am trying to understand the root of their emotions.  Empathic listening does many things. It deepens my understanding. It allows people to “accept” their emotions as valid. It clarifies important issues that need to be resolved. It allows clients to be more accepting of the other person’s point of view.  It encourages helpful and purposeful conversation.

How Empathetic Listening Relates to Mediation

Empathic listening empowers clients to actively join into the mediation process.  A skilled mediator can create an environment of safety and security.  Which can encourage clients to discuss issues.  To have conversations that have purpose and are helpful.  Using empathic listening skills, a sense of respect can be established. Parties can be guided towards their own resolution and agreement.  This is important.  Through effective listening and questioning, clients move away from “combative” issues – like blaming and accusing. And move towards “collaborative” issues – like clarifying and creating alternatives.

When I listen well it sets the stage for helpful conversation.  Negative emotions that are not helpful are dealt with.  I deal with unhelpful emotions in a respectful manner.  This is important.  Emotions are personal.  They belong to the person.  The must be considered valid.  When emotions are ignored or disregarded tension and conflict rise.  I make a point of facing, accepting and exploring emotions during mediations.  I find that people respect that.  They feel that they are being heard.  Once the negative emotions are dealt with, people find it easier to focus on important issues.  How are we going to resolve this?

I hope this gives you an idea of the benefits of Empathic Listening.  Next blog will deal with how to listen with empathy.


For information contact me, today: (403) 952-8752.

 I am a mediator located in Medicine Hat, Alberta. 

Mediation Services: What is the Mediation Process?

mediation services; what is the mediation process

Most people are familiar with the legal side of conflict resolution, but, many are not familiar with dispute mediation services.

Conflict takes many forms.  It can be family conflict, business conflict, workplace conflict or divorce/separation conflict.  Regardless, people really have two options for resolution.  They can litigate and enter into the legal process, or, they can mediate and enter into the mediation process.

Mediation is different from the litigation in one specific area.  In the legal process, clients are placed in an “adversarial” position; one person “wins”, one person “losses”.  In order for this to happen, the judges makes decisions based on evidence presented by lawyers.  The dispute is settled by a “third party”, not the clients.  Don’t get me wrong; this is a fair system, it can, and has worked.  My point is that mediation can be a realistic option.  Here’s how it can work.

I am a Mediator.  I have specific training in this area.  My skills are focused on mediating disputes and reaching resolutions.  In mediation; I do not offer solutions, I do not evaluate evidence, I do not pass judgement.  In the mediation process; I do facilitate conversations, I do establish expectations and boundaries for civil behavior, I do create an environment that encourages helpful and honest dialogue.  My mediation process focuses on having clients create their own positive, reasonable and workable resolution. A resolution for common gain.  A resolution that works for them!  As a result, clients now become “stakeholders” in the agreement.  It is in the best interest of the clients to work towards maintaining their agreement.  Totally different that having a third party mandate a resolution.

When can mediation services be beneficial?

What types of conflicts can be mediated?  Outside of a conflict that involves a criminal act; most any dispute or conflict can have a mediated resolution.  Family disputes can be successfully mediated.  These can be difficult, as often family mediation involve a high level of emotional conflict that needs to be dealt with.  That said, I find that once there is a “buy-in” from the parties, a dispute resolution can be had without too much difficulty.  Civil disputes can also be mediated.  Landlord/Tenant disputes are common.  Using a mediation process can help clients come to a resolution that is beneficial or satisfactory to each party.  The list of disputes that can be resolved through using a mediated process is long.

Legal action can take a lot of time and can take a lot of money (lawyer fees, court fees, etc.).  On the other hand, mediation can take less time and cost less.  Typically, when disputes are referred to me, the process for resolution can start within 48 hours, depending availability of people.  Once the mediation process starts, it can be resolved in two or three mediation sessions.  Each session lasting 2 or 3 hours.  Comparing that to legal action, mediation can be time and cost efficient!

I will have future blogs that describe the mediation process in detail.  My hope is that by reading my blogs, people will become aware of mediation and the potential mediation has in resolving conflicts.  More importantly, being able to resolve conflicts in a more “agreeable” way.  Helping people resolve their own conflicts can make sense.  Mediation may be helpful to you.

Let me know what you think!  Send me a question or comment!  Is there a topic specific to conflict you would like me to blog?  I would love to hear from you


For information contact me, today: (403) 952-8752.

 I am a mediator located in Medicine Hat, Alberta.