Please upgrade your browser.

Cross-Cultural Mediation Skills

Cross-Cultural Mediation Skills

How do the skills required of cross cultural mediation apply to mediation more generally?



Full Transcript

I think that the more effective you are as a cross-­cultural mediator and I’ll say in a minute what I think that consists of, the more you are in a mediation where everybody appears to be or is from the same culture. In other words, wherever there is a dispute there will be differences or not necessarily even a dispute in legal or actual terms, wherever there is a conflict there will be differences in perceptions of the reality that gave ride to that conflict. Which it’s very hard to understand if all you’re doing is fact finding. Now you’ve read my paper on Deal Making Mediation and you know what I think about it. I think it’s too easy and I’m not interested to make a deal. It’s much cheaper than going to court, those are convergent problems.


That I didn’t deliver to you, you had a contract with me that said I had to deliver to you, you’ve paid, I didn’t deliver, I have to make good. Very difficult mediation. This is almost South Park isn’t it. This is really, you don’t say. I mean people get brownie points and pats on the back for doing those meditations all the time. And they won’t sit down, those mediators and I am one of them, have often not wanted to sit down with family mediators because that’s not what we do, we do something so much more important. Rubbish.


Sir Laurence Street, whose the voyeur of mediation in Australia, used to say, “I’d rather do a mediation over 60 million quid than a mediation you’re a dividing fence in a backyard.” Because he said the people mediating over 60 million quid have got their hands in somebody else’s pocket for a start, not their own, which always makes it a lot easier. Nobody wants to go to court over 60 million quid because it’s winner take all. So it’s a foregone conclusion that it’s going to settle. But you talk to two neighbors that are fighting about what’s happening over the fence. Neither of them have the means to move nor wants to be driven out by the other. And you are in an intractable dispute for which you have to mobilize your best skills. And he is absolutely right and he’s been saying it for years.


The better you are at understanding the intractable, the better you are at understanding what’s motivating people in the more, what I call the more regular strain. The bankruptcy mediation is a classic example. If that had been done by a classical deal maker they would of said, “Look, thank you for saying that Mr. Brown, but I’m afraid that’s not relevant here. We’re here to talk about the fact that you owe the bank 17 million pounds. They’re not about to advance you any more money. They’ve declared you bankrupt. You’re objecting to the bankruptcy motion. We’re giving you a chance in a mediation to talk about it, let’s get on with it.”


And I say “rubbish! It’s entirely relevant”.


About the mediator

Kalowski Profile Pic

Joanna has been working with groups as a mediator for over 20years in highly sensitive inter-racial and political settings all over the world. In 2001 she became chairman of LEADR, Australia’s largest non for profit dispute resolution organisation and in 2006 became a visiting fellow at LEADR. She was a member of the administrative appeals tribunal for 10 years and later a member of the National Native Title Tribunal where she mediated land cla... View Mediator