What to wear? Mediator attire in international contexts

Arnaud Guyon, a graduate student in Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution at Salisbury University (Maryland, USA), recently conducted research into mediators’ attire and how this may affect the dispute resolution process. He has written the below article based on his research and findings to date.


First and foremost, thank you to IMI for helping me gather data by sharing the study link at the end of November; thanks to all respondents that took time to answer to the survey; and finally, thanks to everyone for reading.

What should a mediator wear when conducting a mediation in the Middle East, in Asia, in an African or in a South American indigenous groups tribe? Everyone has heard of “making the first impression”, and beyond the saying, it is an actual proven phenomenon. Clothing can communicate a wide and complex range of information about an individual.

A person’s attire has been shown to convey qualities such as character, sociability, competence and intelligence, with first impressions being formed in a fraction of a second

Howlett et. Al, 2013, p.1

My research examined what a mediator should wear when conducting mediation in international and intercultural contexts.

Moffit and Bordon (2005) argued that the field of dispute resolution has been developed through many disciplines such as law, psychology, ethics, economy, mathematics, game theory, sociology, anthropology, history, journalism, religions and more. However, as much as these fields have contributed to the field of dispute resolution’s evolution and the way we understand it today, a strategy for dealing with something that might be obvious to one discipline might not occur to those in another. Many professions, such as police, nursing staff, lawyers etc., can be identified through their ‘uniforms’ such that employees have guidelines about what is appropriate and expected when working, creating a unique common “in-group” identity that draws a clear distinction from other professions (Furnham et. Al, 2013).  However, no research has examined closely what the expectations are in alternative dispute resolution, and more specifically, in mediation. Using the results of a qualitative survey conducted with international mediators around the globe, I argue that a lack of attention toward clothing in international contexts can impact the parties, can potentially harm the outcome of a mediation, or could stall the process even before it starts.

According to Stulburg (1987), there are twenty characteristics and skills that are required from a mediator. The most recurrent ones are being neutral, impartial, intelligent, flexible, persuasive, empathetic, respected, honest, reliable, and having sense of humor. So then