(713) 878-8555 | (855) US-ADROC / (855) 872-3762 – Toll Free

Top Ten Personality Types Present in Mediation and How to Manage Them

During the course of a mediation, you have all experienced difficulties with personalities—be it with a party, their attorneys, an adjuster, or even a family member or other client representative. In his eye-opening paper, “Personality Driven Approach to Mediation and Conflict Resolution,” Brian C. Hewitt argues that the key to successful mediation lies in understanding and adapting to the different personality types of the participants. (Hewitt, 2023). 

By identifying these personality traits and employing targeted techniques, mediators can dramatically increase the likelihood of reaching a settlement. Take a look below at the top ten personality types you may encounter and how you may work to conquer them so as to accomplish a full and final resolution.

  1. The Bully: This personality type craves control and always needs to feel like they are in charge. To persuade them, let them define the proposals and use their own words. Make them feel like the settlement is their idea, and they will be more likely to accept it. As Hewitt suggests, “Go to them for guidance. Ask them their opinion in a way that solicits their superior wisdom.” (Hewitt, 2023). In so doing, they will feel in control and be more open to settlement options. 
  2. The Downtrodden Young Sibling (“DYS”): Often overshadowed by a more dominant sibling, this personality type feels oppressed and unheard. To win them over, be their ally—as in the past—they have likely felt as if they have none. Break down offers to highlight the benefits for them and encourage them to think analytically rather than emotionally. Hewitt advises, “Tell the DYS you are working for him in the other room; every DYS needs an ally.” (Hewitt, 2023). 
  3. The Martyr: This personality believes they have sacrificed more than anyone else and deserves special consideration. Acknowledge their efforts and explain that settling is in their best interest, given the realities of the situation. As Hewitt notes, “A good phrase for a real Martyr is ‘this is not your fault, but it is your problem. Think about how we can get an acceptable deal for you, given the reality of what we are dealing with.’” (Hewitt, 2023). This validates both their sacrifice as well as their participation and possible settlement. 
  4. The Moralist: Driven by a strong sense of justice, this personality type can tend to be inflexible. Explain that justice is not the same as morality or ethics, and that settlement can make a moral statement—oftentimes a rather powerful statement. Hewitt suggests, “Assure The Moralist that every penny the Defendant agrees to pay in every offer is extremely painful for the defendant and deep down is an admission of moral failings.” (Hewitt, 2023). 
  5. The Bitter Participant: Consumed by bitterness over the mediation or past life experiences, working with this personality type can be challenging. To persuade them, try to understand the source of their bitterness and find creative ways to address it in the settlement. Hewitt advises, “It may be the case that a certain result in a mediated settlement can address the why and the when.” (Hewitt, 2023). 
  6. The Agent of Anger (“AA”): Refusing to negotiate, this personality type can derail the mediation process. Let them vent, validate their anger, and explain how negative and unproductive anger is. This is best done without the opposing party; however, oftentimes it is the opposing party who needs to hear the perceived grounds for the anger. Gently refocus on the benefits of settling. As Hewitt suggests, “Let the AA be angry. Let the AA vent his anger, sometimes even at the mediator. Legitimize the anger without promoting it.” (Hewitt, 2023). 
  7. The Gambler: Seeing mediation as a game, this personality type is a risk-taker. Be prepared to call their bluff and warn that their opponent may do the same walk away. Hewitt notes, “Once [The Gambler’s personality is confirmed], the opposing party must understand they have only two viable choices: 1) concede to The Gambler’s inflexible wishes; or, 2) call his bluff and be prepared to go home without a settlement.” (Hewitt, 2023). 
  8. The Corporate: This personality type comes in three varieties—The Upper-Level Executive, The Entrepreneur, and The In-House Counsel. For The Upper-Level Executive must feel needed. Appeal to The Entrepreneur’s business sense. Treat In-House Counsel as a valued attorney. Hewitt advises, “Refer to the party as ‘your client’ so the In-House Corporate Counsel knows you acknowledge her role as an attorney, not a mere corporate representative.” (Hewitt, 2023). 

    The Middle Child: Feeling unimportant and unheard, this personality type needs validation. Ensure they know you hear them and that they have a voice in the process. It may be important that the opposing party hear The Middle Child’s concerns, as well. As Hewitt suggests, “Make sure The Middle Child knows you are listening and The Middle Child is heard.” (Hewitt, 2023). 

  9. The Smartest Person in the Room: Needing to feel intellectually superior often makes this type difficult. Ask for their guidance and opinion in a way that defers to their wisdom. Draw on their intellect to challenge their thoughts and the merits of the settlement offers. Hewitt advises, “Imply the answer by your phrasing of the question, such as ‘I am struggling with where to go next. Do you think it would be a good idea to (fill in what you, as mediator, want to do here)?’” (Hewitt, 2023).


By identifying these personality types and employing the appropriate techniques, mediators can dramatically increase the potential for dispute resolution. As Hewitt notes, “The simple key to settling every mediation, regardless of the subject matter, is to identify the participant personalities, accept people for who they are, and craft settlement proposals that feel acceptable, given the personality of the recipient of the proposal.” (Hewitt, 2023).

It is critically important to remember that while these techniques can be highly effective, they are not a panacea. Mediators also must thoroughly understand the legal and factual issues that are a part of the process in order to reach a resolution. Both aspects are necessary and require the mediator to sense when each is best used to accomplish the objectives of mediation.

But because no mediation will be resolved unless the parties agree, by focusing on the people behind the problems and tailoring the mediation process to the unique needs of each personality type, mediators can create an environment more conducive to settlement. In an era of increasing polarization and high-conflict disputes, this personality-driven approach is valuable for understanding motivations and hesitations, bridging divides, and finding common ground.

As Hewitt concludes, “By applying the Personality Driven Approach, the playing field among the participants, counsel and the mediator can be leveled.” (Hewitt, 2023). Whether a seasoned or novice mediator, understanding and adapting to these top ten personality types can be a game-changer guiding parties to a successful resolution.



Hewitt, B.C. (2023). Personality Driven Approach to Mediation and Conflict Resolution. Presented at Association of Attorney Mediators, St. Louis, MO, April 2023.