Disagreements and conflict are inevitable when you live and work in a community of people with diverse viewpoints and interests. Often people can share frustrations and work out a solution on their own. Sometimes, however, strong emotions, complex problems, power imbalances, and our own discomfort with confrontation make solving problems independently extremely difficult.
Mediation is a way of resolving a conflict in which a neutral person (the mediator) helps people in conflict discuss the issue in a safe and productive way. Mediators help people think about individual needs and interests, clarify differences with the other person, and find common ground. When possible, (and it usually is!) mediators help the parties reach an agreement that everyone can live with.
Parties solve a conflict directly.
Parties use a neutral third party to help them discuss the conflict. The parties themselves make the decisions on how to resolve it. In some cases, lawyers may be involved as to advise clients but the parties themselves decide on the outcome.
Parties primarily use lawyers to communicate. A judge or jury may make the final decision to resolve the conflict.
- Facilitate open, honest, and safe communication
- Help people discuss and clarify issues
- Help people understand each other’s points-of-view and what’s really important
- Discuss options that work for everyone involved— this can include options that hadn’t been thought of yet.
- Reach and write up a mutually-acceptable agreement determined by all parties
- Maintain high standards of confidentiality.
Mediators do NOT:
- Take anyone’s side
- Offer opinions on the case
- Decide the outcome for participants
- Give legal or other professional advice. The mediator may help you think of options to consider, possibly with the help and advice of another professional.
- You are the decision-maker; the mediator has no authority to make decisions.
- You determine the issues that need to be addressed; the mediator guides the process and maintains a safe environment.
- Communication is usually private. If not, the reason why is explained before beginning mediation.
- You have a right to quit mediation at any time.
- Agreements are reached only when you agree.