Last Updated on 9 January 2024

By Wendy Alexander

Mediation is a process that involves a neutral third-party helping the parties in a dispute to reach a mutually agreeable resolution. Communication is at the heart of this process, and the style of communication used can significantly affect the outcome. In New Zealand, there are several styles of communication that are particularly helpful in a mediation context. In this article, we will explore these styles and their benefits.

Active Listening
Active listening is a communication style that involves fully engaging with the speaker and giving them your undivided attention. In a mediation context, active listening helps to establish trust and rapport between the parties. It also ensures that everyone feels heard and understood, which can help to reduce tensions and create a more collaborative environment.

Active listening involves paying close attention to what the speaker is saying, asking clarifying questions, and reflecting back on what has been said. This style of communication requires patience, empathy, and an open mind. By demonstrating active listening, the mediator can create a safe space for the parties to communicate effectively and work towards a resolution.

Non-Judgmental Language
In a mediation context, non-judgmental language is crucial to creating a non-threatening environment. When people feel judged or criticised, they are less likely to engage in open communication and are more likely to become defensive. This can make it challenging to reach a resolution.

Non-judgmental language involves avoiding negative labels or assumptions about the parties or their behaviour. Instead, the mediator should focus redirecting specific behaviours or actions that are causing the conflict. The mediator can do this by reframing the conversation so that the parties hear and understand the perspective of the other party and are more likely to focus on finding a solution rather than defending themselves.

Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions are a powerful communication tool in mediation because they encourage the parties to explore their thoughts and feelings more deeply. Unlike closed-ended questions, which can be answered with a simple yes or no, open-ended questions require more thoughtful and reflective responses.

By asking open-ended questions, the mediator can help the parties to uncover underlying issues and identify potential solutions. This style of communication can also help to reduce defensiveness and promote a more collaborative environment.

Reflective Language
Reflective language involves summarising or paraphrasing what the speaker has said to ensure that the mediator and the other party has understood their perspective correctly. This style of communication is essential in mediation because it helps to build trust and understanding between the parties.

Reflective language also helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that there is no miscommunication. By summarising what has been said, the mediator can help the parties to clarify their positions and identify areas of agreement.

Effective communication is critical in mediation, and the styles of communication discussed in this article can be particularly helpful in a New Zealand context. By using active listening, non-judgmental language, open-ended questions, and reflective language, mediators can create a safe and collaborative environment that promotes resolution. By incorporating these communication styles into their practice, mediators and lawyers can help the parties to resolve conflicts and improve relationships between the parties.

How can you find out more? 
At Norling Law, we are passionate about solving commercial disputes and legal issues.

We offer professional, independent, and impartial mediation services to users in a dispute. Norling Law supports mediation as an efficient way of solving legal issues. Especially if the parties to the dispute want a negotiated outcome that remains private and confidential and puts a prompt end to the costs of having the dispute ongoing.

As mediators and representatives, we assist participants to a mediation achieve their priorities throughout the mediation process and enable them to make informed decisions regarding the resolution of the disputes they are involved in.

At Norling Law, we receive a large number of commercial disputes. Commercial disputes can be extremely stressful and can often be suitable for mediation. The parties may have been negotiating directly to reach a solution that would meet the interests of both parties. However, the parties often find it difficult to reach agreement.

Using mediation is an option that could potentially resolve commercial problems quickly and efficiently. Mediation is a low-cost option to consider before deciding on whether to litigate. Traditional mediation is usually a more expensive process as it involves participants meeting physically and there are resulting costs involved with travel and booking a neutral meeting room (or rooms). Sometimes traditional mediation might not be available at all for urgent matters.

Wendy Alexander can effectively assist users of mediation with her extensive experience as a commercial mediator. Wendy completed training at Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, USA and the AMINZ. Wendy is also an Associate Member of AMINZ. This training complements the skills she already has in negotiation and dispute resolution.

If Wendy’s expertise can be of assistance, the first step is to send us the details of your dispute here.

Wendy has over 20 years’ experience in civil litigation in New Zealand with a main focus on construction, insolvency and debt recovery and security enforcement.