Barbara Walters, by the age of 40, was seen by more people on television than any other woman in history.  She is considered a great conversationalist.  In fact, she wrote a book on the art of conversation.  One of her quotes regarding conversation is directly relevant to the practice of mediation.

I happen to disagree with the well-entrenched theory that the art of conversation is merely the art of being a good listener. Such advice invites people to be cynical with one another and full of fake; when a conversation becomes a monologue, poked along with tiny cattle-prod questions, it isn’t a conversation any more. It is a strained, manipulative game, tiring and perhaps even lonely. Maybe the person doing the talking enjoys himself at the time, but I suspect he’ll have uncomfortable afterthoughts about it; certainly his audience has had a cheerless time.

A conversation, even a brief one, should have all the best features of any functioning human relationships, and that means genuine interest on both sides, opportunity and respect for both to express themselves, and some dashes of tact and perception. Conversation can be such pleasure that it is criminal to exchange comments so stale that neither really listens.

Just as a conversation should be a two way street, mediation requires both listening, understanding and sharing.  A mediator is often a good conversationalist with purpose: A goal to help the parties to arrive at resolution.  Just as listening is a critical skill in mediation, it is also important that clients feel connected to the mediator.  That requires a genuine exchange with a focus.


Originally seen at