Mediation – The Basics

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a process where an impartial third-party helps disputing parties find a mutually satisfactory resolution for the issue at hand. The mediator guides the parties by helping them clarify their underlying interests and concerns. Mediators cannot impose a resolution upon the parties. If an agreement is reached, parties sign a legally binding contract that reflects the solution reached during mediation.  Generally, the process of a mediation flows as follows:

(The following process is from a great resource; “How the Does Mediation Process Work?” by, Jessica Strepp.)

Introductory Remarks
The mediator will wait until both parties are present and then make introductions. The physical setting will be controlled so that no party feels threatened. The opening statement during the introductory remarks will set out the ground rules for the mediation. These ground rules are what help the mediation move along smoothly. The mediator will usually ask that if attorneys are present, they can confer, but the clients should speak for themselves.

Statement of the Problem by the Parties
After the opening statement, the mediator will give each side the opportunity to tell their story uninterrupted.  The rationale behind the statement of the problem is not a search for the truth; it is just a way to help solve the problem.

Information Gathering
The mediator will ask the parties open-ended questions to get to the emotional undercurrents. The mediator may repeat back key ideas to the parties, and will summarize often. This helps the mediator build rapport between the parties, especially when a facilitative style is used.

Problem Identification
This might also be part of other segments. The mediator tries to find common goals between the parties. The mediator will figure out which issues are going to be able to settle or those that will settle first.

Bargaining and Generating Options / Reaching an Agreement
Once the participants are committed to achieving a negotiated settlement, the mediator will propose a brainstorming session to explore potential solutions. This can lead to a final agreement, which diffuses the conflict and provides a new basis for future relations.
The mediator may decide to hold private sessions with both parties in order to move the negotiations along. This caucus session will be confidential. The caucus provides a safe environment in which to brainstorm and surface underlying fears. The goal of the session is to find some common ground by exploring lots of options, and to bring about possible solutions for the parties to think about. Parties can also entertain alternative solutions to their problems without committing themselves to offer the solutions as concessions.