There is no shortage of advice and training for mediators; what is missing is a laboratory in which to examine whether any of it actually works to affect the outcome of a mediation. In other words, with whom do mediators dialogue to place themselves on a scale of effect?

Without that kind of insight, mediation is simply a talent show where the most engaging and entertaining mediators appear to be the best mediators with nothing empirical to support the belief. Whether they actually have an impact on any particular outcome is a speculation - is the mediator merely present during the mediation or is she actually influencing the outcome. And, of course, there is the question whether mediators are even supposed to influence the outcome of a negotiation they are mediating.

Take, for example, Florida's definition of a mediator: The mediator's role is to reduce obstacles to communication, assist in identifying issues, explore alternatives, and otherwise facilitate voluntary agreements to resolve disputes, without prescribing what the resolution must be. Fla. Stat. Ch. 44.403(4)

It begs the question, if not prescribing what the resolution must be can the mediator suggest what the outcome ought to be? If so, what is the process that a mediator should follow to deduce such an outcome or outcomes? And what are the limits of a mediator's efforts to persuade the parties to follow his lead?