The art of asking in the mediation process

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the appropriate question, because once I knew the right question, I could solve the problem in five minutes.”
Albert Einstein.



Before the start of a mediation process, The mediator must ask himself about the existence of any circumstance that could create bias in the development of the same., not only on your part, but also to know and analyze the turning points of the mediation process. For this and other reasons, we can say that knowing how to ask is our daily task, it is simply crucial and can be considered an art.


In the first instance and after introducing ourselves to the parties, in a first interview, we must “break the ice” with questions that ask make the people of each of the parties comfortable. We would speak, therefore, of a first social phase. Examples:

  • Have you had problems finding our institution?
  • Has it been difficult for you to park?
  • Is this the time that is normally most accessible for you to come to our service?


Subsequently, we would begin the process itself, with open questions related to the mediation process in general and the problem in particular, allowing each of the parties to disclose as much information as possible. This would be a problem identification phase. Examples:

  • How do you think we can help you?
  • How would you define the problem that has brought you here?
  • Do you know the mediation process?
  • Have they tried other avenues before coming to us?


In more advanced phases, to know more exactly the problems and the conflicts that arise from them and the specific positions, interests and needs of each of the parties, we can use questions: open, closed, reflective, circular. Examples:

  • You have told me that your priority is... what have you done so far to satisfy it?
  • At this point, do you think that the position held by each one is the most appropriate to continue advancing in the process?


When we are generating options it is convenient to use questions: open, circular, hypothetical.

  • What are the possible options we handle? Why do you think this option is better than the others?


When agreements are being reached, closed and clarifying questions are usually used to confirm the agreements that are being made. Examples:

  • From what I have been able to understand, is it true that you both have agreed... as a possibility to reach a possible agreement?


It should be noted that circular questions are widely recommended in the mediation process, since they are based on questioning a person how they observe two others relating with the aim of discovering the connection between the problem and the personal relationship. Examples:

  • Did your parents' relationship improve as a result of talking to your sister?
  • Why do you think your teacher relies more on other classmates when explaining the subject?


Therefore, and summarizing everything discussed, we can emphasize that Selecting and constructing the right question, at the right moment, is an art in the mediation process, since we can make the people who are the subject of mediation feel heard.. It is also extremely important to know how to ask questions in the different phases of the process so that the parties can listen to each other, so that they can understand why they have behaved the way they have, enabling a rapprochement through dialogue between them. And all this, so that they can understand each other, jointly seeking and finding solutions to the problems that initially led them to the mediation process.


We are aware of the complexity of our exercise, which is why we continually have to reflect on our daily work. In the International Mediation School We have been instructing professionals in this field for years, in order to seek conciliation between the parties. Press here and know the qualities that any mediator should possess.

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