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From conflict to resolution: What to expect when attending mediation.

It always amazes me when I talk to people about mediation as a way to resolve conflict that many still don’t understand fully what it is, nor do they know what to expect if they have been asked to attend mediation.

I’m hoping this blog guide for attendees will shed some light on what is, a growing service with many benefits for individuals, organisations, and groups.

I've been asked to attend mediation. Do I have a choice?

Whether attending mediation is mandatory or optional depends on the specific circumstances. Mediation is often encouraged or even required in certain situations, such as family law disputes, employment disputes, or civil lawsuits. Therefore, you should consult with a legal professional or review any relevant court orders or agreements to determine whether you have a choice in attending mediation.

What should I expect when I get there?

Assuming you are required or have chosen to attend mediation, here's what you can generally expect:

1. Mediator: A neutral third party, known as the mediator, will facilitate the mediation process. The mediator does not make decisions but helps guide the conversation and assists in finding a resolution acceptable to both parties.

2. Introduction: The mediator will start by introducing themselves and explaining the mediation process to both parties. They may also establish some ground rules for respectful communication.

3. Opening statements: Each party will typically have the opportunity to present an opening statement, expressing their perspective on the dispute and their desired outcomes. This is an opportunity to share your concerns and what you hope to achieve through mediation.

4. Discussion and negotiation: The mediator will then facilitate a discussion between the parties. They may encourage open communication, helping each party to express their concerns, interests, and potential solutions. The mediator may meet with each party individually (known as a caucus) to explore their positions privately.

5. Problem-solving and agreement: The mediator will work with both parties to identify common ground and potential solutions. They may help generate options and guide the negotiation process. The goal is to find a mutually acceptable agreement that resolves the dispute.

6. Agreement documentation: If an agreement is reached, the mediator will help draft a written agreement that outlines the terms and conditions. Both parties will review and, if satisfied, sign the agreement.

It's important to approach mediation with an open mind, be willing to listen to the other party's perspective, and engage in constructive dialogue. The mediator's role is to facilitate communication and help find a resolution that is satisfactory to both parties. Remember that the mediator is impartial and does not advocate for either side.

What are the benefits of mediation?

Mediation can offer numerous benefits over traditional litigation or other forms of dispute resolution. Here are some of the key advantages:

1. Cost-Effective: Mediation is usually less costly than going to court, as it often requires less time and resources. Legal fees can accumulate quickly in litigation, but mediation typically involves only the mediator's fee which will include preparation time and travel if that has been required. You might also need to meet with your solicitor and that should be factored in.

2. Confidentiality: Mediation is a private process. The details of the discussion in mediation are confidential and cannot be disclosed (with some exceptions) without the agreement of all parties. This contrasts with trial proceedings, which are public and leave a public record.

3. Control: In mediation, parties have more control over the process and the outcome. They can tailor the process to their needs and circumstances, and they have a say in the final agreement. In court, the judge or jury has the final say, and their decision may not be agreeable to either party.

4. Preservation of Relationships: Mediation is often less adversarial than litigation, which makes it a good option when parties have ongoing relationships, such as business partners, neighbours, or family members. Mediation can help preserve these relationships by promoting respectful communication and mutual understanding.

5. Speed: Mediation can generally be completed much faster than litigation. While court cases can take years to resolve, mediation can often be arranged and completed in a matter of days or weeks.

6. Flexibility: Mediation is a flexible process that can be adapted to fit the needs of the parties involved. It can take place at any stage in a conflict and can be used to resolve a wide range of disputes.

7. Compliance: Because the resolution of a dispute through mediation is mutually agreed upon, parties are generally more likely to follow through on the agreed-upon terms than they would be with a court-imposed judgment.

8. Emotional Satisfaction: Mediation allows parties to express their feelings and emotions, which can lead to better understanding, reconciliation, and emotional satisfaction. You should feel heard in mediation.

Remember, the effectiveness of mediation can depend on the nature of the dispute, the willingness of the parties to negotiate, and the skill of the mediator.

How do I know my mediator is qualified and what skills should they possess?

Choosing a qualified mediator is essential for resolving disputes effectively. Here are some factors to consider when assessing the qualifications of a mediator:

1. Training and Education: A qualified mediator should have received formal training in mediation. This may include a degree in law, psychology, sociology, or conflict resolution, or specialised training in mediation techniques. There should be no issue in you asking for proof of qualification and prior practice. Mediators should be happy to share this information with you.

2. Experience: The mediator should have experience in dealing with the type of dispute you are dealing with. For example, if you're involved in a family dispute, it's better to choose a mediator who specialises in family mediation. Ask them about their experience, the types of cases they've handled, and their success rate.

3. Mediation Style: Mediators may use different styles of mediation, such as facilitative, evaluative, or transformative mediation. It's important to choose a mediator whose style matches what you're looking for in the mediation process.

4. Impartiality: The mediator should be impartial and not have any personal or business relationships with the parties involved in the dispute. They should not take sides or show bias.

5. Communication Skills: A good mediator should have excellent communication skills. They should be able to facilitate productive conversations and help the parties express their interests and concerns. They should also have good active listening skills and be able to understand and articulate the perspectives of all parties involved.

6. Problem-Solving Skills: Mediators should be creative problem solvers, able to help the parties find solutions that meet their needs and interests.

7. Ethics: Mediators should adhere to a code of ethics, which generally includes principles like confidentiality, impartiality, and respect for all parties.

8. References or Reviews: If possible, ask for references or look for reviews from people who have used their services in the past. This can provide valuable insight into their skills and effectiveness. Most mediators with a website will have testimonials on show.

Remember, it's important to feel comfortable with your mediator and trust in their ability to help you resolve your dispute.

What can I do to help myself if I feel anxious on the day of mediation?

It's completely natural to feel anxious about attending mediation, especially if it's your first time or the situation is particularly stressful. Here are some strategies that might help you manage your anxiety:

1. Understand the process: Familiarise yourself with the mediation process. Knowing what to expect can help reduce your anxiety.

2. Preparation: Prepare for your mediation session thoroughly. This includes knowing the facts of your case well, understanding your legal rights, and considering possible outcomes and compromises you would be willing to accept.

3. Consult with a professional: If you have a lawyer, make sure you're clear on your legal position and the strengths and weaknesses of your case. If you don't have a lawyer, consider seeking advice from one or from a charity organisation for example The Citizens Advice Bureau so you're well-informed.

4. Practice active listening: Try to listen to the other party's point of view during the mediation, even if you don't agree with it. This can help you understand their position better and find areas of compromise.

5. Emotional Management: Mediations can be emotionally charged. Consider practicing some stress-management techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness, or other relaxation techniques before attending.

6. Communicate your feelings: If you're comfortable doing so, you might want to let the mediator know that your anxious. They are there to help facilitate the process and make it as comfortable as possible for everyone involved.

Remember, it's completely normal to feel anxious about mediation. It's a serious process and it's natural to feel stressed about it. Just remember to take care of yourself and use the resources available to you.

It is also useful to think about mediation as an opportunity rather than a hindrance to a successful resolution to a dispute.

1. Validation and empowerment: Mediation provides an opportunity for you to express your perspective, concerns, and needs. Through active participation in the process, you may gain a sense of validation and empowerment. This can help counteract the feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt often associated with imposter syndrome.

2. Clarification of strengths and weaknesses: Mediation often involves discussing the issues at hand, which may include evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your position. Through this process, you may gain a clearer understanding of your abilities, knowledge, and accomplishments.

3. Objective feedback: During mediation, the mediator may provide feedback on the merits of your position or the validity of your concerns. This external input can help challenge negative self-perceptions and provide a more objective assessment of your situation. It may help you recognise that your concerns are valid and that you can participate in resolving the dispute.

4. Negotiation skills development: Mediation often involves negotiation and problem-solving. Engaging in these processes and successfully advocating for your interests can enhance your confidence and self-assurance. As you develop and apply negotiation skills, you may gain a sense of competence and shed some of your self-doubt.

Remember, mediation gives you the opportunity to have your say in your dispute. Any negotiation and agreement are facilitated but ultimately decided and agreed upon by you.

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