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Promoting trust in the service

When parties trust the facilitator, they will engage more in the dispute resolution process. There are some tips and tricks that might help to gain and preserve this trust.

What challenges does it focus on?

To convince parties that they can trust the process and the facilitator.

Short summary

Many facilitators highlight that parties who trust the facilitator will engage more in the process. Increasing this trust leads to greater involvement, and more agreeable outcomes. The following are practices a facilitator can use to increase levels trust of people in the service.

  • Practices to promote trust of parties
  • Be clear about your role: The facilitator is not there to make a decision but to guide the parties to find their own solution. The facilitator is not there to serve the interests of either party, but supports justice.
  • Show a genuine interest: Actively listen and pay attention
  • Ask open questions to find out as much as possible about the conflict. Listen to both sides, and do not jump to any conclusions.
  • Make transparent that you have no conflicts of interest.
  • Keep up communication with the parties: Answer questions fully and as honestly as you can. Ensure that if you agree to check something, that you report what happened to the party as soon as possible.
  • Use appropriate language, behaviour and manners, responding to the social and cultural background of the parties.
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And also:

  • Emphasise, and preserve confidentiality. Remember to ask what information, if any, you can share with the other party.
  • Encourage questions and challenges about the process, as long as they are made calmly and respectfully.
  • Be flexible to respond to the needs of the parties. 'Be like a jellyfish' - constantly changing shape.
  • Join a professional Institute or collaborate to establish a accreditation scheme, a certificate of competence or a quality assurance mark in your country.
  • Establish independent client satisfaction monitoring
  • Practices to promote trust in the community:

Explain ownership of the process to the community, so:

  • Link the process to authorities and broader initiatives.
  • Get involved in legal education and legal empowerment initiatives
  • Monitor and make transparent corruption.

Research evidence

Evidence from practice

  • Emphasize neutrality: Faciliators of CEWLA in Egypt and Karen dispute resolution providers in Thailand alike, build trust by emphasizing that they are there for both parties to help them find a solution
  • Good communication skills: such as active listening, asking open questions and treating parties with friendly respect are reported to be effective ways to build trust by paralegals in Rwanda and Egypt.
  • Listening to both sides of story: not jumping to conclusion but patiently listening to both sides of the story is the key to trust according to facilitators in the newtork of Hagaruka in Rwanda and Cewla in Egypt.


Evidence from literature

  • Predictability of behaviour increases trust
  • Trust (or, symmetrically, distrust) is a particular level of the subjective probability with which an agent assesses that another agent or group of agents will perform a particular action, both before he can monitor such action (or independently of his capacity ever to be able to monitor it) and in a context in which it affects his own action (see Dasgupta and Luhmann in particular, this volume). When we say we trust someone or that someone is trustworthy, we implicitly mean that the probability that he will perform an action that is beneficial or at least not detrimental to us is high enough for us to consider engaging in some form of cooperation with him.

Gambetta, Diego (2000) ‘Can We Trust Trust?’, in Gambetta, Diego (ed.) Trust: Making and Breaking Cooperative Relations, electronic edition, Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, chapter 13, pp. 213-237 Download here

Tips to build trust:

  • Show concern and respect
  • Affirming the mediators experience and credentials
  • Exampling and validating the mediation process
  • Good listening and understanding
  • Good interpersonal skills. Impartiality and even handed conduct of the process
  • Through empathy and bonding during separate meetings

Mediation: principles, process, practice, Boulle, L. & Nesic, M., 2001

People appreciate it when they know what the steps in the porcess will be and what the process will deliver to them.
Access to Justice, the Quality of the Procedure, Klaming L. and Giesen, I, 2008

Facial resemblance can enhance trust. This could be an argument of favor of co-mediation. 

Lisa M. DeBruine, 2002 Download here

Best practices