Advocacy Skills in Transformative Mediation
There are three main roles for representatives in transformative mediation:
Who may serve as a representative?
Each party to a REDRESS mediation is entitled to be accompanied by a personal representative. No special qualifications or degrees are required. Employees may choose anyone they want to represent them, just as they would during any other part of the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) process. They may also choose to participate in mediation without a representative. Examples of those who have served as representatives are attorneys, friends, spouses, coworkers and clergy.
Each party decides what their representatives role will be. Representatives are encouraged to lend support and advice and to assist their clients in expressing their concerns in their own words, rather than expressing it for them. Each party best understands his or her own beliefs about the issues, and only he or she knows what it will take to be satisfied. The mediator encourages the parties to speak with each other on their own terms and in their own voices, thus providing them with the best opportunity to recognize each other's point of view and reach an understanding.
What are the responsibilities of a representative during mediation?
Representatives serve an important role in transformative mediation. They serve their role best by:
- Encouraging the parties to communicate directly with each other while serving as a catalyst to that communication.
- Helping the parties clarify their concerns both before and during mediation.
- Providing support so the parties can better articulate their views.
- Serving as a resource for advice and counsel.
What can a representative expect in transformative mediation?
Representatives familiar with mediation can expect to see some similarities between transformative mediationused by the Postal Service™ and other models of mediation. Both have an opening session where the mediator introduces him or herself, the parties have a chance to give opening statements, and ground rules are established. Next, there is discussion, either together or separately in caucus. If the parties reach a resolution, a settlement agreement is drafted.
Transformative mediation, however, differs from the more directive or evaluative mediation model employed by most court-annexed programs in important ways. For example, it is the parties themselves, not the mediator, who establish ground rules. In addition, the parties usually stay together and limit the use of caucuses since they are encouraged to speak with each other rather than directing their comments to the mediator or through their representatives. Accordingly, in a transformative mediation session, it is customary for the clients, not their representatives, to make the opening statements. Representatives can add tremendous value by assisting their clients in staying focused, reminding them of important points, and offering guidance where needed.
Postal Service representatives are trained in transformative mediation skills. They encourage their clients to speak and generally refrain from limiting the issues discussed. They focus less on "legal" language and place more emphasis on open communication and a free exchange of information unburdened by formal intervention. When all representatives approach the mediation using the transformative model, clients have a greater opportunity to find resolutions that work best for them.
It is important that all representatives recognize and trust that REDRESS mediators function differently than mediators they may have encountered in more traditional mediation proceedings. They are highly skilled mediators who have been specially trained to support the parties as they resolve their own dispute, and, in the process, learn how to improve their working relationship. REDRESS mediators will not offer opinions on the relative strength or weakness of a party's case, they will not evaluate the case and they will not give legal opinions. They do not attempt to guide the parties in their decisions or to limit the focus of the discussion. Representatives are strongly encouraged to exercise the same level of restraint. This can be difficult at times, but the results make it worthwhile.