As the mediator, there a number of things going on in my head and on a number of levels. I am trying to assess the participants and the dynamics. I look at body language, tone of voice and their general demeanor at the mediation. It is my job to determine if there is a power imbalance and if so to address it. It is also my job to make sure that each party has the same basic level of understanding and knowledge. If not, I suggest ways that this can happen. Sometimes I suggest experts or outside people that one of the participants can consult to get up to speed.
On another level, I am always assessing my neutrality. If I suggest that one party consult with an outside expert, will that be seen by the other party as favoring that party? Almost anything I do can be taken as biased. In fact, I often tell the couple that I will inevitably be biased. It is unrealistic to think I would not be. What I ask them to do is to inform me if at any time they feel that I am not being neutral.
On another level, I am simply a traffic cop. I need to keep the participants focused and on task. It is my job to redirect the conversation when things get out of hand or become too tangential. At various times, I check in with the couple to make sure that they are comfortable with what is happening in the mediation.
On yet another level I am a problem solver. Ideally, the resolution of disputes and ideas for resolution will come from the parties. There are times however, when I will make some suggestions for possible scenarios for outcomes. Once again, whenever I make suggestions I always have to be careful and make sure that the parties understand that I am not pushing a particular agenda or resolution. This would undoubtedly affect the appearance of my neutrality. There are times however when I see parties struggling to find a solution and I have one in mind because of experience in dealing with a similar situation in the past. In that situation, I will make a suggestion of one more option to consider.