Mediation in conflict contexts is difficult. It involves bringing together opposing parties and creating conditions that enable them to have meaningful dialogue. It involves managing two or more representatives of groups that for whatever reason(s) are currently opposed to each other. It involves walking a delicate tightrope where a single mistake by anyone including the mediator can not only lead to a cessation of dialogue but sometimes actually add fuel to the fire of conflict for one or more parties/sides of the conflict in question. That’s why it’s critical that people understand what mediation and being a mediator doesn’t mean before they try to mediate real conflicts of any scale whether it’s a familial conflict, a conflict between communities, or any other setting wherein a conflict is taking place.
Being a mediator doesn’t mean being a pushover:
If you’re a mediator you’re involved in a conversation between two opposing people or groups and oftentimes it’s because you’re fierce. Fierceness takes on a range of forms but no one who actually wants a successful mediation will be happy if the mediator in the conversation lets those involved in the conversation do whatever they want especially because there are people and groups who might take advantage of a mediation setting to ignite a more fierce conflict if they are not taken to task by both the other party or parties and the mediator(s). It takes a certain kind of fierceness to successfully create the sort of conditions needed for opposing parties especially emotionally invested and driven opposing parties to listen to each other. You have to know when, where, and how to stand your ground and demand that the parties treat each other and the mediation with a certain level of respect that is needed to push closer to peace or closer to less intense conflict.
Being a mediator doesn’t mean you’re uninvolved:
Being involved in a peace process requires and includes involvement in a conflict. If you’re a mediator you are involved in the conflict. This doesn’t mean you’re taking a side or forcing your own opinion on the parties in conflict, but if you’re a mediator you can’t pretend to be uninvolved.