The Distinctive Features of Online Mediation Compared to Traditional Mediation


Online mediation is different from in-person mediation in many ways.

First, unlike face-to-face mediation, which occurs in real-time, online mediation takes place at a later point in time.

Online mediation has a different cadence than traditional mediation because each side responds via email at least once daily.

There are no online images to help you; everything you need to know is in the email.

After being limited to written communication for a while, you may begin to appreciate the importance of sight and sound. The tone of our voices changes depending on whether we are serious or facetious. Online mediation would not permit such a result. Use simple language and avoid cutesy expressions to avoid misunderstandings.

Third, one must be mindful of email etiquette when mediating online; no using lol, smiley faces, or CAPS.

Online mediation calls for more formal language than appropriate for texting or tweeting. Caps are the online equivalent of shouting, so use them with caution. Abbreviations and smiley faces should be avoided in such conversations. Using them suggests you are not taking the mediation seriously or acting professionally.

Fourth, people are more outspoken and inclined to use profanity or disrespect the mediator or the other parties while communicating online.

I was pretty aback by how much more outspoken people could be in internet mediation than in-person mediation. People have been rude and aggressive toward me, even resorting to cursing. Because there are usually no ramifications for such statements in cyberspace, it tends to encourage some people. In my mediation ground rules, I aim to address this head-on. If it doesn’t work, I’ll have a private conversation with the offending party, and if the disrespectful texts persist, I’ll end the mediation. When I explain my policy, the parties normally tone down their email correspondence.

5. The mediator is usually unaware of the parties’ racial, ethnic, or national origins, which can be a liberating factor in mediation.

Online mediation is convenient since it allows me to focus on specific issues. Mostly, I have no idea what color, ethnicity, or sex ( if the email address does not indicate it). This is relieving since it dramatically reduces the possibility of prejudice or an accusation of bias. I often don’t know where the parties are staying until they tell me. The US or UK are also possibilities, as are Europe, Asia, and Africa. The good thing about this situation is that I can give my full attention to fixing the problem.

Sixth, before sending an email, ensure it looks polished and has no mistakes.

When meditating by email, professionalism is of the utmost importance. It’s easy to make errors and misspell words when you’re in a hurry to send a message. It’s essential to remember that a spell checker can only tell you if a term exists, not if it’s used correctly. Mistakes in an email sent to the parties may give the impression that the mediator is unprofessional and careless. Sometimes I’ll put away a lengthy, intricate message until I have time to revise it. Usually, I have a much clearer sense of where I went wrong. Everybody benefits from good editing now and then.

Seven, the Mediator timed the emails to establish a rhythm and speed.

The Mediator determines how quickly emails are answered. Even if you receive a prompt reply, you should pause before responding so the other party does not assume you are simply waiting for their message. On the other hand, things may move more slowly if you don’t read your messages daily. The Mediator needs to strike an appropriate balance. The Mediator may occasionally feel that the matter is progressing smoothly and will soon be resolved. If that’s the case, he should probably respond immediately so we can move on.

Eight, online parties may feel alone and have a heightened need for communication.

When a mediation lasts several days or weeks, all parties involved must know what’s happening at all times. Is there a reaction from the other side? How did they put it? Please describe the deal. Why do they act this way? Participating in an online mediation can feel isolated. The mediator must take extra precautions to keep all parties apprised of developments, even if it’s just to report that one side has not responded.

9 Email caucusing is not the same as face-to-face caucusing.

The use of caucusing in online mediation is crucial. As a caucus member, I will “meet” with each side separately and may have conversations that won’t be shared with the other. The party will inform me of the information he wishes to keep confidential and the information he wishes to share with the other party. The caucus concept can be challenging to describe in writing or on the phone. Perhaps this is due to the fact that it is more likely that the other person is located on a different continent in cyberspace than in the next room. Parties online frequently express confusion at my inability to read their words to them. I brief the parties beforehand about the caucus procedure so that no one comes in with the assumption that they will be able to overhear my conversations with the other side.

Ten. Emails come across as frigid, and jokes fall flat.

Those visual clues we discussed before are crucial to the success of a joke. Those learning English as a second language may miss the humor if it relies on interpreting a particular word. Email is not the place for sarcasm. It comes off as scathing rather than humorous. Many of us rely on body language and tone of voice to convey our meaning. It’s not surprising that electronic messages carry a chilly manner. The Mediator should perhaps be more gregarious in their greeting and closing. Also, you might need to summarize the email so everyone is on the same page.

In conclusion, I enjoy the excitement and the challenge of online mediation. Following these guidelines will help you mediate online with confidence.

Author and mediator attorney Mary Greenwood

Professional Mediation Techniques, The 41 Guidelines for Conflict Resolution,

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Recognition at the London Book Fair.

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