Is Mediation Right for You?
I’m a conflict mediator, which means I support people or groups in working their way to resolution or negotiation through conflict that people don’t feel they can manage on their own. Many people these days are seeing the importance of alternative forms of conflict resolution and mediation is definitely one of these methods. Mediation is cheaper than working with lawyers and requires less bureaucracy than the legal system. Mediation can still take time but you also get way more control in the way the process goes and what you want to get out of it. Mediation is not a win/lose approach and is more open to a variety of outcomes depending on the situation. Mediation doesn’t seek to be punitive but rather tries to be fair, realistic and just.
But how do you know if mediation is the right dispute resolution method for you? There are many different types of mediations and mediators. Some mediators merely act as a facilitator, while others actually work with clients to discover the root causes of an issue and offer their own thoughts and perspectives on the process. Depending on the type of conflict, one of these might be more preferred than the other.
Any form of conflict resolution or negotiation is going to be intense. This means that sometimes trying to do your own mediation or trying to mediate a conflict for people you are close to can feel like too much and wind up being too conflicting. External mediators do not hold the closeness to the situation that the people involved do and because of that are usually more able to pick up patterns, notice behaviours, and provide strategies they think will support the wellbeing of those involved and get everyone to an outcome they feel good (or at least okay) about.
So when can you use mediation?
-When all parties involved want to find a resolution to a new or ongoing conflict/issue.
-When harm has been caused and parties want to discuss repair, boundaries, and how to move forward.
-When all parties involved know they need to part ways but need someone to support them through setting agreements and boundaries for moving forward.
-When all parties involved know they need to part ways but because they perhaps share property, space, children, community, etc, they need a mediator to support them in negotiating agreements and boundaries for how they will move forward.
-When all parties or a party need to have a difficult conversation and need someone to support them in having it and hearing it.
-When all parties aren’t sure how to proceed with a conflict/issue and need a mediator to support them in strategizing a process/breaking it down to feel more mangeable.
When do you know you are ready to proceed in a mediation?
-When you are open to self reflection.
-When you are open to self and group evaluation.
-When you are open to negotiation (aren’t committed to just a single outcome).
-When you are ready to listen.
-When you are ready to commit the time and energy (note that though mediation takes time and energy it might be less or at least a different type than it is to avoid the conflict or continue to engage in it as you currently are).
-When you can admit things aren’t working as is and need to change.
Mediation is a process that can provide really positive outcomes! But the success of the mediation is heavily dependent on the parties involved. Parties that aren’t open to negotiation and reflection should reconsider if mediation is truly what they are seeking. I’ve seen mediation do great things for relationships and communities when approached with patience, care and long term commitment. There is no shame in needing support during difficult conflicts that are taking a toll on you, your group or your community.
Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions you may have about mediation. I’d be happy to answer them!