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Mediation: An Essential Life Skill

By: Amanda Rioux (Moore), Civil Court Mediation Intern

During my time with NVMS, I have learned an extraordinary amount about mediation and the skills required to become a successful mediator. As I reflect on my previous life experiences and my current position as a manager, I realize even more the importance of incorporating the skills I’ve learned related to mediation into my daily life. A few skills that come to mind include active listening, patience, collaboration, and communication.

Because mediation truly allows individuals to have a voice and the time to work together to solve their dispute; it has taught me to continue to increase dialogue among myself and others, which ultimately leads to a more positive outcome for everyone involved. This concept was further solidified through participation in NVMS’ Skills and Process course. As we role-played characters in different scenarios, it was refreshing when I and the other party had the time to really work through a situation and actually be heard without being shut down by excessive emotions. Listening, being patient, communicating, and being collaborative, were all skills and lessons that were reinforced through role-play exercises.

Too often in our daily lives we aren’t actually listening to others, instead are just waiting for our turn to talk. Mediation has trained me to be different. Now, instead of blurting out or interrupting others, I take a moment to process what was said and then form my thoughts.


Mediator Ethics: Conflict of Interest 

By: Ben Jacewicz

A mediator should communicate with the parties before initiating the formal mediation process, so that they together can identify any circumstances signaling a possible conflict of interest disqualifying her from participation.  For instance, she should explore with the parties whether any of her past or current clients are adverse to one or both of them.

The mediator should take the following steps upon learning any information raising concern about the existence of a conflict of interest.  She first should review the conflict-of-interest rules for mediators and any other professions of which she also is a member to determine their applicability.  If those rules give no definite answer, then the mediator next should consult other sources, such as mediation-ethics opinions, publications for the mediation profession, the staff of any organization concerned with the regulation of mediators, and trusted colleagues.  The mediator also should never lose sight of perhaps the most valuable guide in deciding whether there is a conflict of interest that disqualifies her: common sense.


Party Psychology

By: Ben Jacewicz

A mediator must keep in mind party psychology.  For example, the longer mediation lasts, the more a party has invested in it.  This investment may eventually reach a critical mass that causes him to begin to believe mediation will have been a waste of time and money if no agreement with the other side is forthcoming.  Such a belief may well instigate self-imposed pressure to settle.  (The validity of this mindset is an issue beyond the scope of the present discussion.)

            The prospect of further proceedings in lieu of settlement further increases this pressure in the context of litigation.  There, the judge wants the mediation to conclude by a certain juncture, so that she knows whether to schedule a trial.  A party thus faces a point of no return in terms of resolving the dispute, or incurring the substantial expense and many hours required to prepare for and go to trial.  Besides these costs, the emotional toll of the dispute will persist, and likely increase as the party must relive it in the courtroom and contend with the anxiety attendant with the uncertainty of how a judge or jury will decide his fate.


Success without Settlement

By: Ben Jacewicz

Mediation can lead to success even when it does not culminate in a settlement.  For instance, it provides the parties with an opportunity to test the strengths and weaknesses of their respective positions.  This residuum of mediation should enable the parties better to present their cases in the event they are unable to iron out their differences, and must seek resolution from a third-party adjudicator, such as an arbitrator or judge.

            A mediation not leading to settlement also can lay the groundwork for later rapprochement.  Although they remain at an impasse, the parties may well have narrowed their areas of disagreement, and almost certainly will take away much to think about.  After further reflection, they may decide to reinitiate negotiations on their own, or perhaps with the assistance of the mediator, which in turn may eventuate in settlement.


Hearing vs. Listening

By: Amanda Rioux (Moore), Civil Court Mediation Intern

You’re probably familiar with the term “active listening,” but what is it exactly? Are you an active listener? Many of us hear thousands of words a day, but more often than not, we are simply hearing the words and not listening to the meaning. 

Active listening is a process in which an individual makes a conscious decision to listen and to under the message of the speaker.

Here are some steps to help you become an active listener: 

  1. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact.
  2. Be active, but relaxed.
  3. Keep and open mind.
  4. Listen to the words and try to picture what the speaker is saying.
  5. Don’t interrupt and don’t impose your “solutions.”
  6. Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions.
  7. Ask questions only to ensure understanding.
  8. Try to feel what the speaker is feeling. 
  9. Give the speaker regular feedback.
  10. Pay attention to what isn’t said - to nonverbal cues. 

Active listening is a skill often used to help resolve conflicts and is a valuable skill that can be used by everyone!  

See if your an active listener:

* Learn more about active listening: (Dianne Schilling, 2012)


Why Respect is Important in Mediation

By: Laura Patten, Civil Court Mediation Intern

The idea of giving someone respect and being courteous to people has been integrated into our lives since we were children. Respect your elders. Respect your teacher. Respect your friends. In many cases, it is an obvious element of behavior when considering the act of communication. 

However, something that we may practice every day as members of society, can come to a halt when there is a disagreement. One reason parties have a disagreement could be perhaps that one party may have felt disrespected by the other party. But, the other parties may not understand if they do not communicate. 

This is where mediation comes in.

Mediation serves many purposes. One purpose includes enabling parties to talk about their problems with each other in a respectful way. Any participant in the mediation, including the mediator, reserves the right to request others to be respectful to each other. This may seem obvious. However, it could be the hardest thing for some people in conflict. 

How can you show respect in a mediation, even if there is major disagreement?

-Listening carefully to what others have to say so that you can learn the other party's point of view.

-Not interrupting someone when they are speaking to you or another person.

-Using respectful language that would not include, name-calling, swearing and other destructive phrases. 



Introducing Mediation to an Organization

By: Laura Patten, Civil Court Mediation Intern

NVMS has highlighed how mediation is a multi-facet process of conflict resolution. Now it is time to apply the knowledge that you have of mediation to work! Here are some ways of effectively incorporating mediation into an organization or business.  

1. Take control of the organization's own disputes.

2. Train personnel in the principles of early resolution through mediation.

3. Publish a policy of mediation.

4. Incorporate mediation into the procedures of the organization.

5. Pass on the benefits of mediation to employees.

6. Retain external advisors who understand the benefits of mediation.

Courtesy of International Mediation Institute


Annual Report

By: Laura Patten, Civil Court Mediation Intern

Hello everyone!

Check out our Annual Report for the Year of 2014.

Annual Report



10 Ways to Live Restoratively

By: Laura Patten, Civil Court Mediation Intern

In reflection, it is important to remember that although there have been times when others have done you wrong, it is also important to admit your own faults. There may have been times when you have done things that, looking back, could have been done differently in order to prevent feelings from getting hurt. There is no judgment of you. No one is perfect. 

However, to actively think of ways in which you can contribute to restore peace, here are some suggestions from Howard Zehr, one of the leading thinkers in Restorative Justice.  

1.    Take relationships seriously, envisioning yourself in an interconnected web of people, institutions and the environment.

2.    Try to be aware of the impact – potential as well as actual – of your actions on others and the environment.

3.    When your actions negatively impact others, take responsibility by acknowledging and seeking to repair the harm – even when you could probably get away with avoiding or denying it.  (To craft a letter of apology, see the Apology Letter website developed by Loreen Walker and Ben Furman.)

4.    Treat everyone respectfully, even those you don’t expect to encounter again, even those you feel don’t deserve it, even those who have harmed or offended you or others.

5.    Involve those affected by a decision, as much as possible, in the decision-making process.

6.    View the conflicts and harms in your life as opportunities.

7.    Listen, deeply and compassionately, to others, seeking to understand even if you don’t agree with them. (Think about who you want to be in the latter situation rather than just being right.)

8.    Engage in dialogue with others, even when what is being said is difficult, remaining open to learning from them and the encounter.

9.    Be cautious about imposing your “truths” and views on other people and situations.

10.  Sensitively confront everyday injustices including sexism, racism and classism.


Co-Parenting & Mediation

By: Laura Patten, Civil Court Mediation Intern

What comes next after divorce? What comes next for your children? Co-Parenting can be a difficult discussion. Even if your divorce was as mutual and respectful as possible, your children need a plan for this major shift in family dynamics and lifestyle. 

If talking to your former spouse one-on-one feels too overwhelming, do not feel life you have to discuss it alone. You have options! People would be surprised to find out that some of our mediations with our clients have been centered around co-parenting following a divorce. NVMS can provide divorced couples with a mediator to help create a more comfortable and safe environment for all parties involved to act as a facilitator in the discussion for your child's future moving forward. 

Not only does NVMS provide mediation services, we also provide classes on co-parenting!

NVMS has an upcoming class regarding co-parenting for open IV-D DCSE cases. We will be offering these classes a few times a month throughout the year.

The first class is April 25th, 2015 @8-30am-12:30pm at the NVMS Office (4041 University Dr. St.101, Fairfax VA). Breakfast will be included. If that date is not convenient, we have a second class on May 16th, 2015, same time and place. 

To register for this class, please contact Alessandra Cuccia. Phone: 703-865-7263. Email: