How can a mediator deal with challenging behaviour? (3 ways)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “How can a mediator deal with challenging behaviour?” and explore the concept of mediation, the job of a mediator and the various ways to deal with challenging behaviour to help understand the answer. 

How can a mediator deal with challenging behaviour?

A mediator can deal with challenging behaviour in the following 3 ways –

  • Maintaining high standards throughout the mediation while avoiding fighting back.
  • Identifying parties who are unwilling to engage in productive negotiation.
  • It’s crucial to establish trust and rapport with the offender. 

These 3 ways a mediator can deal with challenging behaviour will be discussed in further detail below after taking a deeper look at what mediation means. 

What is mediation?

Mediation is a systematic, interactive process in which a neutral third party helps disputing parties resolve disputes using specialised communication and negotiating strategies. All mediation participants are urged to take an active role in the process. 

Mediation is a “party-centred” procedure, meaning it is primarily concerned with the parties’ needs, rights, and interests. To steer the process in a positive direction and assist the parties in finding their best solution, the mediator employs a range of strategies.

A mediator is a facilitator because she or he regulates the contact between the parties and encourages open dialogue. Mediation is also evaluative in the sense that the mediator examines situations and related norms (“reality-testing”) without giving prescriptive advice to the parties (e.g., “You should…”).

Mediation, as defined by the law, is a type of alternative conflict resolution that involves two or more parties and has actual consequences. In most cases, a third person, a mediator, aids the parties in reaching an agreement. 

Problems can be resolved through mediation in a range of contexts, including economic, legal, diplomatic, workplace, community, and familial disputes.

Mediation is a wide phrase that refers to any situation in which a third person assists others in reaching an agreement. Mediation, in particular, has a structure, timeline, and dynamics that “regular” negotiating does not. The procedure is secret and discreet, with the possibility of legal enforcement. 

The majority of the time, participation is entirely voluntary. The mediator operates as a third-party neutral who helps rather than leads the process. 

Mediation is gaining popularity as a more peaceful and universally acknowledged means of resolving conflicts. Mediation may be used to settle any type of conflict.

However, due to differences in language as well as national legal standards and regulations, the term mediation does not have the same meaning in all countries, and there are some differences between Anglo-Saxon definitions and those of other countries, particularly those with a civil, statutory law tradition.

Mediators utilise a variety of approaches to help disputants open or increase discussion and empathy, with the goal of assisting the parties in reaching an agreement. Much is dependent on the expertise and training of the mediator. 

As the practice grew in popularity, so did training programmes, certificates, and licensure, resulting in a cadre of skilled and devoted mediators.

What are these 3 ways a mediator can deal with challenging behaviour?

Maintaining high standards throughout the mediation while avoiding fighting back.

Maintaining high standards throughout the mediation while avoiding fighting back is the greatest method for a mediator to deal with persons who have hard conduct. Mediation might be terminated if the situation gets too hard to handle. 

In this case, the mediator should relax and take a minute to collect their thoughts. They should not respond quickly but instead, concentrate on determining the true requirements and interests of both sides.

During mediation, there are numerous options for dealing with difficult conduct. Forcing the mediator to take a brief break or caucus to restore reason is one of these techniques. Other strategies include distancing the mediator from the source of the conduct and deciding whether or not to continue the mediation.

A mediator, for example, could meet with the individual who is confrontational to figure out what is causing the behaviour. This encounter almost always results in a breakthrough in the mediation process.

The role of a mediator is also influenced by how they present themselves to the opposing side. A mediator, for example, may have built a connection with a party via earlier interactions. When the mediator is brought by a secondary stakeholder or recognised authority, however, conflict participants may be more receptive. 

They may even cast doubt on the mediator’s motivations and relationships with the other parties. To avoid such issues, it may be desirable for the mediator to avoid being introduced through secondary parties.

When a mediator sees problematic behaviour, he or she may decide to call a halt to the mediation. To preserve their time, some mediators add a cease provision in the mediation contract. 

Many customers, on the other hand, feel that mediation has no fangs, which might imply that they expect no repercussions if they break the guidelines. As a result, mediators must respect their time and safeguard the mediation process. These are crucial considerations in mediation.

This sort of conduct is sometimes misinterpreted as poor coping mechanisms. Young individuals with a range of impairments, on the other hand, might employ difficult behaviour for a number of reasons, including getting attention, expressing limited speech skills, and participating in sensory stimulation. 

People with a variety of neurodevelopmental abnormalities are more prone than those without to engage in confrontational behaviour.

Identifying parties who are unwilling to engage in productive negotiation.

Identifying parties who are unwilling to engage in productive negotiation is one technique to make discussions more effective. Identifying such players is critical to reaching the intended conclusion if you’ve been in a conflict or even a business meeting. 

You might begin by concentrating on their mutual interests once you’ve identified these folks. You may give these folks a compromise that fits both their wants and their aims if you recognise them.

People seldom make rapid judgments and aren’t always able to look past their preconceived notions and biases. If they are given more time to ponder, they may become more adaptable. 

Furthermore, it is critical to maintain the conversation; if they appear hesitant to explore the matter, you can always shift the subject later. You may also try making grateful motions to keep the conversation continuing while letting the other side continue at their own pace.

Make cautious use of neutral language and avoid jargon when writing a formal agreement in mediation. Read the contract to both parties and clarify any elements that are unclear. 

Get each person to sign the agreement if at all feasible, since this provides a degree of accountability and finality. But be careful not to press too hard, or the process’s informality may be jeopardised.

The first stage in establishing a written agreement is to identify the subjects that will be covered during the mediation. Consider the priority of the subjects as well as the demands of each party once you’ve recognised them. 

It may be beneficial to create a point hierarchy so that the most challenging issues are addressed first. If the issue is sexual harassment, for example, you should put it first because it is more difficult than others.

Provisional agreements can be used if the parties are unable to reach an agreement on a final agreement. Provisional agreements are useful for establishing the parties’ mediation aims and giving the mediator a tool to use while negotiating with the opposing side. 

Furthermore, temporary agreements allow for future adjustments and clarifications. They also serve as a means to send a good message about the mediation process to both parties.

During victim-offender mediation, challenging conduct is a natural component of the process. It might happen when the victim has unreasonable expectations about the mediation process, such as complete restoration of the injury. 

Despite the fact that favourable outcomes are prevalent, no single mediation is assured. The mediator must always be realistic and remember that each mediation is unique.

It’s crucial to establish trust and rapport with the offender. 

The mediator must make the offender seem credible and friendly during the first session. The mediator must accomplish this by listening to the offender’s experiences, answering questions, and providing pertinent information. 

Furthermore, the criminal can have concerns for the victim. In this scenario, the mediator should provide facts to the offender in order to assist the offender in making the best option possible.

The dangers and advantages of victim-offender mediation should be well communicated. The mediator must explain the procedure in full to the victim in order to avoid bad consequences and establish a pleasant environment for the victim. 

The mediator must first identify himself, explain his or her training and history, and then offer pertinent information about oneself and his or her function in order to be effective. It’s critical to clarify what mediation is, who the players are, and what the legal system can’t accomplish.

Conclusion – 

This blog post attempted to answer the question, “How can a mediator deal with challenging behaviour?” and reviewed the concept of mediation, the job of a mediator and the various ways to deal with challenging behaviour to help determine how a mediator can deal with challenging behaviour. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

Ford, J. Dealing with Difficult Behavior. (2001, December). Retrieved from

Stapley, K. Managing Confrontational Behavior in Mediations. (2021, May). Retrieved from

Dealing With Difficult Behaviour. Minerva Mediation. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Mediation Skills. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Resolving Workplace Conflict Through Mediation. Mind Tools. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Mandel, W. M. Handling Bad Behaviour and Difficult Personalities at Mediation. (2017, February 15). Retrieved from

Doran, C. & Goldberg, D. N.  Mediation Techniques for Managing Emotions. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Curran, D. & Coakley, A. Mediator Behaviour: Demystifying What Actually Happens in the Room. (2018). Retrieved from

Gooderham, S.  How to Successfully Manage Entrenched Conflict in Mediation.  (2020). Retrieved from

Christopher Moore, The Mediation Process: Practical Strategies for Resolving Conflict, 3rd., (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2004). Retrieved from