THE BLOG

How to Prepare for Mediation

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

2016-05-15-1463332568-8926956-Handsnegotiating.jpg

I enjoy the people I work with immensely. They may not realize it but I often learn more from them then I suspect they learn from me. Each mediation renews my belief that people are willing to listen, learn and create resolution in the interest of peace, time, and fiscal responsibility.

People ask how I succeed in getting so many mediation agreements. Frankly, I don't gage the success of a mediation based on getting an agreement. Still, I think most of my clients walk away with an agreement because they want to. People who choose to mediate (with a mediator who isn't an attorney) are dedicated to resolving their differences peacefully without lawyers. They aren't seeking a "Judge Judy" moment; they aren't too concerned with legalities of their conflict. Rather, they are concerned with what's in everyone's best interest. My clients want to mitigate drama not create it. They value their time, money and privacy.

Another reason most of my mediation clients reach resolution is because they are prepared. I am not in the business of wasting anyone's time or money. I firmly believe that if you understand the mediation process and come prepared to work, you are more likely to be successful in your resolution.
Before my mediations, I usually assign "homework" to each participant. It's a simple yet important practice that helps everyone focus. Each mediation participant lists (from their perspective) the current issues of contention and a resolution(s) for every concern. This takes requires them to prioritize issues and think about how to best resolve them. It shifts their attention on problems not people. And, it requires thinking in the future tense not the past.

Clients craft their list irrespective of how others will receive it. This empowers them to think specifically about their needs/interests and work to advocate for them. People tend to be more creative in generating options when they aren't worried about how they will be received. Sometimes clients are surprised that their suggestion (that they thought others would hate) is the same as others.

There is no guarantee that a mediation will yield an agreement. Over my twenty plus years of mediating, I am less focused on that. Instead, the greatest benefit of mediation is the opportunity to have a difficult but direct conversation in a safe place where various opinions are heard and considered. The listening and learning that comes from mediation, is often the greatest gift. Strengthening communication and making considerations for other people's feelings is key to ameliorating future relationships. Yes, most of my clients get an agreement; but, they learn a lot about themselves and others too. For me, that's the best outcome of mediation.