|What is the purpose of mediation?
The purpose of mediation is to help people involved in a dispute to
engage in a problem-solving conversation with one another. In essence,
this conversation amounts to an "assisted negotiation" between the parties.
Mediation can loosen the deadlocks which often prevent resolution and
promote understanding, cooperation, and joint problem-solving between disputing
What are the advantages of mediation?
Unlike other forms of dispute resolution (e.g., filing a grievance,
going to court, or even asking an expert to decide how a dispute will be
- is informal.
- is confidential.
- gives the individuals most directly affected by the dispute maximum input
in arriving at a solution.
- promotes greater understanding between people in disputes, which gives
it a much greater probability of "healing" relationships.
Is mediation really confidential?
Yes. except under very l imited circumstances (e.g., danger to self or
others) mediators will not acknowledge to anyone uninvolved with the issue
that you even came to mediation, let alone what was discussed.
What happens in mediation?
Mediation looks like a "controlled conversation." In the beginning,
participants often interact with the mediator directly, as the other
party listens. In virtually all successful mediation, the parties talk
about the concerns which brought them to mediation and what they hope the
mediation will help them accomplish.
The mediator asks questions to identify
the underlying interests of both parties and to identify the specific issues
that need to be resolved for the mediation to be successful. Mediators
reframe the problems to focus on the genuine concerns of both parties.
Next, the parties generate various alternatives designed to resolve the
specific concerns of both parties. They then fine-tune their agreements
until they are satisfied that the agreements resolve their concerns. Finally,
the mediator then types a formal agreement document and gives it to each party to sign,
date, and give to the other.
What can I do to help mediation succeed?
- Remember that your goal is to gain the cooperation of the other party in
resolving the dispute. Behave in ways that
you think will result in their wanting to cooperate with you rather than resist you.
- Talk honestly about your real concerns AND treat the other person respectfully.
This can help you avoid eliciting defensiveness from the other person and
becoming further deadlocked into unproductive discussion.
- Listen carefully to the concerns of the other party so that you can demonstrate
that you understand them.
- Adhere to the ground rules of mediation: (1) no interrupting and (2) no deliberate
- Keep the content of the discussions confidential unless you and the other
party agree to share the contents with a specific person or persons.
- Stay self-focused, rather than talking about the concerns of others who
are not a part of the mediation.
When does mediation have the best chance to succeed?
- When the parties are concerned about BOTH the content of their dispute AND preserving
- When both parties talk honestly and respectfully about the dispute which led
them to mediation.
- When disputes have been present for a shorter rather than a longer period
- When the parties believe a negotiated agreement would probably provide a better
outcome than their next best alternative.
- When neither party insists that the other should be punished.
- When hostilities are moderate or low.
- When participation in mediation is voluntary for both parties.
When is mediation NOT appropriate?
Usually, mediation is not appropriate when:
- there is physical violence (or the imminent threat of physical violence).
- abusive or harassing behavior is present AND the person engaging in these
behaviors refuses to stop.
- neither party cares about preserving the relationship.
- there is no ongoing relationship between the parties.
- one or both parties insist on punishment as the only appropriate resolution.
- the parties want to resolve a dispute by persuading the other
to change his/her attitudes, beliefs, or values rather than his/her behavior.
- one or both parties lacks the authority to make necessary agreements.