Emotional intelligence in mediation practice

James Duffy published a valuable piece in 2010 probing the value of emotional intelligence for mediation practice. Emotional intelligence (EI) is an established conceptual framework for harnessing the impact of mediator’s emotions in a purposive and positive way in practice. What is EI? It is a conceptual framework emanating from positive psychology and made popular by the work of Dan Goleman. EI emphasises reflective practice in relation to the emotional dimensions of intra and interpersonal experience.

EI has great potential as a framework for incorporating existing practice in relation to the emotional experiences of mediators and parties. It’s reflective emphasis resonants with established practice and developing theory about reflective practice in mediation. Its inclusion of intra and inter personal dimensions enable consideration of both a mediator’s reflection on his/her own emotional responses and the interplay of emotions within mediation sessions.

There are several models of EI. Goleman’s model is the most accessible in terms of its relative succinctness and practical application. The five components of EI developed by Goleman are depicted in the table below, which identifies them according to two dimensions and includes Goleman’s definitions.

Intrapersonal dimensions Self awareness The ability to recognize our moods, emotions and drives and their effect on others.
  Self regulation The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods

The propensity to suspend judgment – to think before acting

  Motivation A passion to work for reasons that go beyond money and status

A propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence

Interpersonal dimensions Empathy The ability to understand the emotional make up of other people

Skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions

  Social skills Proficiency in managing relationships and building networks

An ability to find common ground and build rapport

Table 1: Adapted from Goleman (2004: 3)


Whatever model is ascribed to, emotional intelligence is foremost about feelings. To be emotionally intelligent signals an ability to monitor feelings our own and those of others, and to use this information to respond in appropriate and effective ways.  EI is recognised as a set of learned skills that can be incorporated into educational programs, including mediation training. It’s food for thought !


Goleman, D. 2004. ‘What Makes a Leader?’ Harvard Business Review, January: 1.

Goleman, D. 1998. Working with Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam.

Goleman, D. 1995. Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam.

Duffy, J. 2010. ‘Empathy, Neutrality and Emotional Intelligence: A Balancing Act for the Emotional Einstein’ 10 (1) Law and Justice Journal  44-61.



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