Mediation is a highly effective and responsible way of resolving conflict. A mediator is a neutral third party that guides disputants in reaching a mutually satisfying agreement. Unlike an arbitrator or judge, a mediator does not impose a settlement upon the parties. Instead, he (or she) provides a forum and facilities a dialogue where the participants construct their own solution. The mediator does this by helping the parties express their feelings, needs, interests and values in such a way that the other person in the conflict is able to listen in a receptive and non-defensive way.
Most participants in mediation are satisfied with both the process and the outcome of mediation. They like the opportunity to participate directly in the process, present their own views, and have some control over the outcome. They value being treated respectfully by both the mediator and the other party. They recognize that their relationship with the other person will have a more positive future than if they had chosen a more adversarial conflict resolution process (like arbitration or litigation).
As a mediator, I perceive mediation as the only form of conflict resolution where both the resolution of the conflict and the relationship of the parties are priorities. A victory at the expense of the other can have destructive ramifications, as can a settlement that does not fairly meet each individual's needs.
Mediation is not only the best method to forge a satisfactory settlement, but it is also an opportunity to accept differences, release resentments, forgive grievances, and to perceive another human being as having legitimate needs and interests. While the incentive to utilize mediation may be to maximize the potential for producing a favorable outcome, additional benefits include broadening one's perspectives, learning valuable communication skills, and strengthening, as opposed to destroying, relationships.
How I Mediate
A good mediator is more than a combination of training and experience. Personality, presence, and commitment make a difference. I bring the full capacity of my heart and mind to this task. I listen compassionately and objectively, giving my clients the attention and respect they deserve. I am both gentle and firm, kind and competent, authentic and available. I am committed to co-creating a resolution that meets the needs of the individuals and their relationship.
My style of mediation is pragmatic; I believe in doing whatever is productive and effective. I have been trained in a variety of strategies, but I am not limited by them. I believe that a successful mediator must be flexible, creative, even intuitive, and not be limited by a particular technique or agenda.
Sometimes I am non-directive, knowing it is empowering for participants to choose their own goals, follow their own guidance, discover their own answers, and ultimately experience their own inner authority.
Sometimes I am directive, because, though the parties may conceptualize a desired outcome, they do not know how to achieve it. I have seen that when mediation follows an established and progressive structure, it is more likely to produce satisfying results. Skilled direction helps the participants to feel safe and comfortable, allowing them to listen non-defensively and express themselves non-aggressively.
I am supportive when I perceive that an individual is struggling with difficult emotions and is having difficulty expressing them. I realize that mediation is more than an intellectual endeavor, and that vulnerable feelings can be stimulated.
I am confrontive when I see that an individual's behavior is not contributing to the solution of the problem and to the accomplishment of consensual goals.
While my primary task to facilitate the dialogue so that my clients can achieve their objective, I also have an educational role. I am aware that this particular conflict is not the last one that the participants will have. I use the dispute as an opportunity to teach conflict resolution skills, so that each person becomes competent to resolve future conflicts. Parties complete the mediation not only satisfied with the immediate results, but also confident in their ability to communicate more effectively in all areas of their lives.