The Art of Verbal Communication
BY AMANDA BUCKLOW AND REBECCA ATTREE
“Voice. It’s not the first thing that comes to mind when you consider what makes a successful mediation, is it? Yet a mediator’s verbal communication skills are a key part of engaging parties and helping them move towards settlement.” Amanda Bucklow and Rebecca Attree from IPOS Mediation share in this article. How important do you think communication skills are?
Voice. It’s not the first thing that comes to mind when you consider what makes a successful mediation, is it? Yet a mediator’s verbal communication skills are a key part of engaging parties and helping them move towards settlement.
A mediator will use their voice in a myriad of subtle but powerful ways. They’ll ensure the volume is at a suitable level to convey their authority without parties struggling to hear them, and that the pitch is crisp and clear, which is particularly useful for people for whom English isn’t their mother tongue. They may emphasise certain words to get someone to focus on why those words are particularly important to them or switch from a purposeful tone – where their voice goes down at the end of a sentence – to an upward, questioning tone to invite the party to explore a point further.
Throughout the mediation session, the mediator will vary the pace, tone, volume and cadence of their voice to create a special kind of rhythm and melody. By using their vocal skills, they give parties the time they need to slow down, absorb and consider information while also creating momentum to keep the negotiation going.
Setting the tone
We know that people mirror each other, so when a mediator uses a calm, peace-seeking tone it starts the session off in the right way. This is especially important in the joint open session, if there is one, where it’s not what is said so much as how it’s said. That same mirroring can be used to deflect any potentially explosive situations where parties are raising their voices. Assuming the mediator has significant authority and established trust, if they lower their voice the parties are likely to follow.