Mediation aims to develop better communication between the parties; it is forward-looking and action-oriented. We open the floor for the participants to express their concerns, feelings, fears, issues, desires, aspirations, frustrations… We study the past to shine some light on where the conflict may have started and then quickly move on to the present and the possible options to resolve the differences so we can all move forward with our lives. After all, there is a lot of life to be enjoyed out there…
Of course each case is different, but generally speaking, a mediation session is structured in a way that creates a natural flow for an open conversation. Whether it’s a divorce mediation or a facilitation at the workplace the design is usually the same, although there are corner cases where a different format is called upon.
At the very beginning, the mediator will ask, one participant at a time, what their perspective of the situation is. Each participant is given equal time and opportunity to speak and express point of view on the problem. Here is where emotions and strong feelings play a part. The mediator’s key task at this time is 1) to help all participants express themselves fully and clearly and 2) to promote mutual understanding by making sure the participants are actively listening to one another. It is during this conversation that the substantive issues are presented (the issues are the areas that need to be addressed and resolved).
The mediator then discusses, with the participants, the issues raised, their needs and interests, and ultimate goal. It is important that all participants are in agreement as to the issues to be resolved. The next step is to, together, come up with options and ideas that could possibly resolve the conflict. This a very beautiful part of the process as parties are encouraged to be as creative and open-minded as possible, amazing ideas come from it.
Next comes the problem-solving phase. The parties are asked to analyze the options and decide on what is realistically durable and doable for them. It is very important that the participants do not take an adversarial position here, but rather work side-by-side looking at each other’s needs and interests and their ultimate goal. Once the parties have come up with a solution that is mutually acceptable, an agreement is reached and it will be drafted. Once signed, the participants are bound by law to abide by their agreement.
Each case is different and sometimes some cases are harder than others to work through. But the beauty of this process is the mutual-problem solving aspect of it. The parties learn to communicate with one another in a mindful and respectful way and together come up with a solution that they know will work for them. They can now move forward with their lives.