Our definition states that a mediator assists disputing parties. Assistance can refer to very general or highly specific activities. Here follows some of the more general roles that the mediator may assume in assisting parties in resolving disputes:
- The opener of communication channels, who initiates communication or facilitates better communication if the parties are already talking.
- To test the legitimacy of the parties and help all parties recognise the right of others to be involved in negotiations.
- The process facilitator, who provides a procedure and often formally chairs the negotiation sessions.
- The resource expander, who offers procedural assistance to the parties and links them to outside experts and resources that may enable them to enlarge acceptable settlement options.
- The problem explorer, who enables parties in dispute to examine a problem from a variety of viewpoints, assist in defining basic issues and interests, and looks for mutually acceptable options.
- The agent of reality, who helps build a reasonable and realistic settlement and questions and challenges parties who have extreme and unrealistic goals.