To Listen – the most important ability of a neutral.
An Open Mind – the most important part of a neutral.
A neutral must lead but not dictate, be firm but not overbearing, act decisively but not capriciously, and be respectful, flexible, articulate, and fair.
A neutral must earn respect and engender trust.
A neutral must understand the process and keep in mind it is the parties’ process, but not let any party hijack it.
An arbitrator must understand the parties’ agreement to arbitrate and know the governing rules and law and not be afraid to apply them evenhandedly and appropriately to safeguard the process. Parties deserve a fair, cost-effective, and expeditious resolution. They must be allowed to prove their claims and defenses, but there is a line separating insufficient discovery from what is appropriate and another line separating what is appropriate from the burdensome and unwarranted, there is a line separating needless motions from those that would streamline a case, and there is a line separating good faith actions from those meant to obfuscate, hinder, or delay. The arbitrator must know when to adjust those lines and how to ensure the parties do not cross them.
A mediator should have training and experience in different modes (e.g., facilitative, understanding-based) and not have a rigid, one-size-fits-all approach. Different approaches will be appropriate at different times depending on: the nature and status of the dispute; the emotional, legal, financial, and other views each of those involved has of the dispute and its possible resolution; and the nature, knowledge, and ways of processing information and making decisions each of them has. Regardless of the approach used, everyone needs to be heard and to feel he or she is being heard, both by the mediator and by the others involved. The mediator must: actively listen and understand; use careful non-judgmental questioning to identify and help the parties identify what their interests and concerns are, what they really want, and what solutions might be possible; be mindful of the stress the parties and counsel are under; keep confidences; create a safe environment so those involved feel they can speak freely (in both caucus and joint sessions); and become evaluative when appropriate and to the extent necessary.
No neutral is right for every dispute.