Annette Nay, PhD

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Techniques for Using Skillful Questioning in Mediation
Copyright 2009
Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Using Questioning in Mediation

  • A mediator uses questions to get to the root of the problem. It is also the mediator's job to make the participants feel comfortable without using so many questions that the person feels s/he is being interrogated.
  • The mediator can best do this by using open-end questions that make the participant explain instead of just answering yes or no.
  • Help the participant know that you are listening by using eye-to-eye contact. Making appropriate comments or nodding in all the right places.
  • If a participant gets long winded or becomes repetitious or goes off the subject, summarize and then use questioning to either bring them back to the point, to the conclusion of their narration, or on to another subject that needs clarification.
  • Do not feel that you need to fill silence with noise. Silence can help the person clear their thoughts, get past a difficult feeling, or help him/her organize his/her thoughts. You attention and body language tell the speaker that you are supportive and will allow them the time they need.
  • Questions such as: "Anything else?" "Is there something else we should know?" Can help the speaker either end his/her narrative or get to the next important point. Use questioning to define general statements into clarified statements. Example:
    • Bill: He is always taking advantage of me.
    • Mediator: Can you give me an example of that?
    • Bill: He gets my help on projects, but then takes all the credit.
  • Use questions to help you ascertain if you are understanding the speaker correctly.
  • Use questions to fill in the gaps in a story.
  • Use questions to help the participants to problem-solve. Ex: "Have you thought of_______?"
  • Questioning can be used to help the parties to weight their options. Ex: "If Bill does _______, will you agree to do ________?"


  • Massachusetts District Court Mediation Project
  • Options Unlimited (1990) The Use of Questioning in Mediation.

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