This month’s member spotlight is our past president and elder statesman of mediation, Ed Krauss.
Ed served on the Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management before it was eliminated in statewide budget cuts in 2009. He has been a diligent advocate for mediators in Ohio, and we appreciate his efforts.
More information about Ed is found on this website at https://www.mediateohio.org/members/krauss-edward/
Read below to learn more about Ed and his approach to mediation.
Where do you practice mediation, and what kinds of cases do you mediate?
I mediate anywhere within a four-hour drive of Columbus. I’ve mediated several cases in West Virginia and along the southern rim of Ohio. None yet in Detroit or Ann Arbor, but I’d be pleased to do so. Most of my practice is in or near Central Ohio.
Although I’ve done a wide range of mediations, including domestic (parenting agreements for married and never-married parents), my specialties are two:
Employment/personnel disputes. I have mediated approximately 240 cases for the United States Postal Service, plus numerous cases for government offices and the private sector.
Financial disputes. These have included property evaluations by the county, historical preservation, land use, economic development, taxes, contracts, repairs to vehicles and homes. The largest case was fifteen million dollars.
From your experience practicing mediation, why do you believe that the mediation process is an effective process for resolving disputes?
When parties to a dispute are in mediation they have the power to decide the outcome. Of course they share that power, and both have a veto, which requires the mediator to help them work as a team, even if reluctantly, to find a mutually-acceptable resolution. In a court proceeding the parties have no power, the court has it all. In addition, a case will often take more than a year to get a court date due to various legal processes before the day in court, and two years is not uncommon. With mediation the question is “What is your schedule in two weeks?”
What is your general philosophy or approach to mediation?
I am a facilitative mediator. I don’t say who might be right or wrong, don’t offer any comments that sound like legal or financial advice. Rather, I help the parties find their own solution(s) by asking appropriate questions and helping the parties in their search for an acceptable outcome. In the words of my first instructor, Shelley Whalen, I defend the process.
What characteristics do you have that come in handy during mediations?
I have over three thousand hours of at-the-table experience. This is beneficial because mediation is both a science and an art. The science is the basic structure of mediation, guiding people through the search for an outcome acceptable to all parties, a process of organized problem solving. I’ve learned this and polished that learning through hundreds of hours of classes, including the excellent training opportunities offered by the Ohio Mediation Association (OMA). As for the art, all those hours at the table has allowed me to have a good feel for what to ask when, how to respond to anger or stubbornness or frustration or all the other emotions and behaviors that may be present. I’ve worked with many attorneys and know and appreciate their roles in providing advice and counsel to their clients during a mediation.
What advice would you give to disputants looking for a mediator?
Look on the OMA web site and read what mediators say about their experience and areas of practice. Give them a call or email; mediators are glad to hear from people interested in this form of dispute resolution and will explain what they do, how they work, what the fees are.
What are your thoughts on the development of mediation as a profession, practice, or field of study?
The biggest hurdle the profession faces is that mediation is rarely a part of the shared knowledge about how to resolve disputes – it is not in the American lexicon to any significant extent. When people are caught up in a conflict mediation does not readily come to mind as a way to find a positive outcome. OMA works to spread the word, to expand the use of mediation in the general public, but it is a true challenge.
What advice would you give to new mediators?
 Never forget that it is not your problem. You are there to help the parties share ideas and discuss the possible mutually-acceptable resolutions that may arise. If you are the hardest working person in the room it isn’t mediation.
 Questions are your friends. If you aren’t sure about something, ask. “How did it impact your company when the check bounced? What was your understanding of when the work would be completed? Which parent will carry the health insurance for the children?” If you have a question in your head, ask it.
 Silence is your friend. Often after an hour or two a point is reached where the two sides are showing movement toward a settlement, but seem stuck. Caucus is a valuable tool at this point, but before a caucus try this: Clearly state where both sides are, what has been decided, what has yet to be resolved. Verbally hold it up for them to see. Then SIT THERE. Don’t make hard eye contact; fiddle with your notes, jot things down, let them think. The chance that one of them will make a new offer in thirty seconds or less is high. It doesn’t mean the case will settle for sure, but it is a breakthrough moment, a way of getting past stuck. In general, don’t rush things, give people time to think, to consider, to formulate their next proposal.