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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 parties.

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 resolved), mediation:  

  1. is informal.
  2. is confidential.
  3. gives the individuals most directly affected by the dispute maximum input in arriving at a solution.
  4. 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?

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. Listen carefully to the concerns of the other party so that you can demonstrate that you understand them. 
  4. Adhere to the ground rules of mediation: (1) no interrupting and (2) no deliberate button-pushing.
  5. Keep the content of the discussions confidential unless you and the other party agree to share the contents with a specific person or persons. 
  6. 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 their relationship.
  • 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 of time.
  • 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.
Last Modified: 04/08/08 at 03:40:21 PM