The Mediation Process
Motivated to Mediate
To begin mediation, both parties must be receptive to hearing each other’s perspective and comprehend the reality of their situation. During the mediation process, the parties will articulate the issues they face, work through their conflict, and then determine and evaluate their options. Ultimately, they will draft a contract that satisfies them.
The parties meet for the first time with the mediator. After introductions, the mediator fully details the process and defines everyone’s role. The group will establish and agree to the guidelines that will move them forward during the process.
Defining and Understanding the Problem
With the mediator’s help, the parties identify the specific issues that require resolution, and all the relevant economic, emotional, and personal factors that surround those points of contention. At this time, it’s useful to determine any existing agreements or disagreements, to focus on the remaining issues. Understanding is a critical component of a successful mediation process, and the mediator takes a proactive role early-on to establish a climate that fosters mutual respect among the parties.
Working Through Conflict
Besides articulating the substance of their conflict, the parties must also examine the non-productive behavioral and communication patterns that continue to arise. The mediator, who is adept at identifying these blocking patterns, will facilitate the conversation so the parties may overcome these barriers by offering more productive alternatives.
Beyond the ‘how’ of the conflict, the mediator helps the parties understand truly ‘what’ the conflict is about. By helping them identify what is most important to them, the process that can sometimes feel extremely illuminating for the parties.
Developing and Evaluating Options
The parties will first brainstorm all options, without regard for their viability. This allows the parties to freely explore more creative solutions, without becoming entrenched with any single position. Mediation is also unique in that it allows the parties to cooperatively reach a conclusion that yields them a benefit that’s of greater value than that which they would have received otherwise. For example, some options might create an added economic or qualitative benefit that ultimately leaves the parties better off or more fully satisfied.
Ultimately, options need to be evaluated, so that the parties may examine how fully their needs and interests are met by each possible solution. The parties will naturally begin to take ownership of their own responsibilities with respect to each solution, empowering them with the knowledge that they have full control over their resolution. Finally, the mediator will explore the feasibility of a potential agreement by asking the parties questions that evaluate how well they each understand the full implications of the particular issue and it’s proposed resolution. Considerations such as the impact on any third-parties, and how the terms of the resolution might change over time, should be considered.
Once a satisfying resolution is reached, the mediator drafts a contract, which is written in clear language that accurately reflects the essence of the parties’ intentions. The parties execute the contract by signing it, bringing the mediation process to a close.