Discussion Forum - Mediator Maneuvers: Flexible Skills to Handle Challenging Moments in an Online Platform

Mediator Maneuvers: Flexible Skills to Handle Challenging Moments in an Online Platform

Program’s Description

Mediators must bring in a great communication skill set and have the ability to flex and move with the parties in face to face sessions. They become competent in their ability to ask questions, shift parties' thinking, observe body language and listen for tone. The myriad of mediator skills ultimately supports parties to move through resistance to resolution however defined by the disputing parties. Now, place the mediator in an online environment with an emphasis on using new technology tools to facilitate the same discussions. Watch the mock mediation video conducted by Arbitration Resolution Services (ARS) and engage with us by reflecting on these questions and sharing your thoughts, experiences and AHA! moments.

Moderators’ Bio

Pattie Porter is an adjunct faculty for the Southern Methodist University's Dispute Resolution program teaching conflict management coaching. She earned her facilitator certification through Soliya and the United Nations Habitat program to engage in differences with individuals from various countries through facilitating cross-cultural dialogues in a virtual environment. Pattie is also the Founder and Host of the Texas Conflict Coach online radio program educating the "everyday" person about conflict and conflict resolution. The radio program has engaged in Cyberweek for the last 5 years educating consumers how they can easily gain access to justice and resolve their disputes no matter where they are in the world.


George H. Friedman, an ADR consultant and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Arbitration Resolution Services, Inc., retired in 2013 as FINRA’s EVP and Director of Arbitration. In his extensive career, he previously held a variety of positions of responsibility at the American Arbitration Association, most recently as Senior Vice President. He is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Fordham Law School. Mr. Friedman serves on the Board of Editors of the Securities Arbitration Commentator.  He is also a member of the AAA’s national roster of arbitrators. He holds a B.A. from Queens College, a J.D. from Rutgers Law School, and is a Certified Regulatory and Compliance Professional. He is admitted to the New York and New Jersey Bars, several federal courts and the United States Supreme Court.

Mark Norych manages the operations of Arbitration Resolution Services, Inc., and oversees the experienced litigators, judges, and magistrates who make up the panel of arbitrators. He is also responsible for managing the company’s Arb-IT™ arbitration system.

For more than 30 years, Norych has been involved in the collection, litigation, and arbitration of claims on behalf of insurance, car rental, and other major industries. He has also coordinated and supervised litigation on a national and global level.

Norych is a frequent lecturer and sought-after professional speaker. He has provided seminars and workshops at several Fortune 500 companies on topics ranging from best practices for corporate operations to specific topics related to federal and state regulations and laws and their effect on company models and procedures.


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Hello Graham,

Thank you very much for your tips. This was the first time we used the online platform to conduct a mock mediation. We purposefully did this so that we could show in real-time the struggles we had but also the advantages of using online web conferencing too.

For me as a workplace/EEO mediator, your tips and strategies are right in line with what I was encountering too and what I still need to consider doing in the future. Thank you for offering the asynchronous text exchanges as an option when dealing with time zone differences.

Great stuff.


There are excellent points!  Thanks for sharing

Great list of tips Graham. Any advice on training our cat not to insert himself at inopportune times? :-)

HA! HA! Bill. And yet, not so funny because if the upside of doing online mediation is flexibility of where you are, one still has to consider their environment from where they mediate. If it is from your home office, then distractions such as barking dogs, climbing cats, sick kids staying at home, the postman ringing at the door are all potential distractions.

You can at least control these things to some extent. You cannot control these things from the parties' end. If the idea of online mediation platforms, especially live web conferencing, where parties maybe joining in via their home environment, there might very well be challenges to address. Ross suggests doing a pre-session day to check on technology, etc.

The question is how to handle distractions not normally found in a face-to-face mediation session. So, if the party decides to turn off their webcam, or they are multitasking and not staying present in the conversation, or they are interrupted by crying children, or maybe they are smoking as they participate.

  • Do these things matter to the online mediation session?
  • What could mediators do to address these potential distractions early prior to the session, and
  • What are techniques for how to handle these interruptions during the session?



Hah!  Any time I use videoconferencing is the cue for the gardener to show up and blast the leaf blower

Hi Bill -  keep the cat - have him sit on your desk and purr whenever there is a decent offer. 

Just  been reminded of another tip - sit up straight at a table or desk. Sitting back in an armchair,  with your feet on a stool and laptop on lap looks real bad on camera...especially if you haven't cleared your nose!

Angela Fox's question from Monday.

I have a question to participants, is it recommend to have a moderator to assist in the technology to be used for the mediations? Why or why not?

As a mediator, my preference is to have a moderator serve as the "technical director" of the online mediation. I want to concentrate on being a mediator and not worry about the technical aspects of the online mediation,  Also, if there are technical questions, participants can engage the moderator to answer them (or resolve problems) 

Hi everyone – Thanks to ARS for creating this video. I am a JD student at Washington University, and this is my first exposure to online mediation. It was very helpful to watch this example of how online mediation could work. One observation: some of the participants who were holding a phone to their ears looked a bit uncomfortable, and certainly less natural than those who were using, I suppose, speaker phones. I wonder if it would help create a greater feeling of a truly engaged conversation to ask all participants to use speaker phones or some other hands-free method. Actually, I would be interested to hear why some did not, given that most phones do have that feature. Perhaps for confidentiality purposes?


I also wanted to respond to Graham’s tip about creating the illusion of eye-contact by looking into the camera in most cases. The interesting thing there is that by looking into the camera, the speaker creates that illusion for those listening, but not for him/herself. I know this from experience with Skype and other social communications platforms: one’s impulse is to look into one’s conversation partner’s eyes, which are usually shown on the screen below the camera. Often, it will be important for a party to a negotiation to be able to watch the other sides’ facial expressions and reactions while speaking. An injured party, in particular, may need the feeling of speaking directly to the eyes of the person he/she perceives to have injured him. In the online platform, though, this gives the other party the impression that the speaker is looking down, thus ruining the illusion of eye-to-eye communication on his/her side. I don’t see a good solution for this. Any thoughts? 

Agree.  In my experience, either a lapel mic or good speakerphone works best. Hands-free is best where possible (it wasn't for the demo).

Also, you might be interested in these two items I authored: 

Mediation No Longer the Rodney Dangerfield of Dispute Resolution? http://www.sacarbitration.com/blog/mediation-no-longer-rodney-dange...

How Do You Explain Mediation? http://www.callawyer.com/2015/12/how-do-you-explain-mediation/

Yes that is a problem, Elizabeth. I think it helps to sit further away from the screen than you might  normally do so  the diversion of your eyes from the camera while you look at the other person is less apparent.


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