Political Competence and the Mediator: A New Strategy for Managing Complexity and Stress

  • Patricia Marshall

Abstract

The newly developed ‘Practice Standards for Australian Mediators’ emphasise the need for competence in knowledge, skills and ethical understanding. These competencies now need to be defined more specifically. For a mediator, competence is vital, not only to achieve client satisfaction, but to ensure the mediator’s own sense of wellbeing; lack of mastery may produce stress and inability to cope with the demands of the role. The focus of this article is a form of competence which has thus far not been named in the mediationliterature: political competence. It is relevant because mediators must: manage power relationships; harness the power of parties in order for them to achieve some form of resolution that meets their needs; and restrain their own power so that they do not impose a settlement which contravenes the ideal of self-determination. The paper describes how awareness of this competence emerged from a study of mediator stress and coping. It then suggests a link between political and social/emotional competencies, and proposes the need for political competence to be developed in mediation practice.

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