It is a truism to say, quoting Mark Twain, “If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got”
Before agreeing to mediation you have probably already considered the alternatives, such as litigation, and decided against it for any number of very good reasons. However, if you were to go down the legal route you would need to prepare very carefully for your day in court, in order to line up your arguments, and cut down on waste of resources. It is prudent to go into mediation with the same careful preparation. This has the effect of focusing you on the outcome you desire, and prevents you being sidelined into useless debates in the mediation room. This is true of almost all areas of conflict, though clearly is more difficult to achieve when close emotional relationships are in flux.
5 tips on preparing for mediation (from Why Mediate)
Taking the other persons point of view into consideration helps . Use a friend to interrogate the other persons side of the issues and ask yourself:
- How does the other person feel about the dispute – what is their position?
- How would they define the problem – what is most important to them?
- How do they see my behaviour in the matter?
- Has my behaviour impacted them – and how?
- What are the important issues to them?
Remember, conflict arises when people’s values are offended, so be prepared to hear things you do not expect to hear.
Discovering what the other party wants is a big part of any negotiation, be prepared to listen when the other party is speaking.
Plan to remain calm, and be honest in your negotiations, but tactfully so!
The Role of the Mediator
The mediator will play a neutral role as s/he attempts to help you resolve or better manage your dispute. S/he will remain neutral. Their job is to assist you in understanding one another and in reaching agreements. To do this, s/he will establish ground rules and ask questions (usually to one person at a time). S/he will help you identify the issues and interests.
Once issues and interests are identified, s/he will encourage you to brainstorm solutions. After the mediation, s/he will draft agreements and, after gaining your approval, give them to you to sign, date, and exchange. Usually there will be a cooling off period, and a plan to return to mediation if necessary.