Five Steps For Preparing For Mediation
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Published by TOP4 Team
Mediation is one of the most effective ways to resolve your disputes and conflicts. It can save parties a lot of money, energy and time. However, many people have never been involved in mediation and do not know what to expect and therefore come unprepared to take advantage of all the mediation has to offer. From my experience as a mediator, the more prepared the parties are, the stronger the resolution will be. Preparing for mediation is not something that takes a lot of time and strategy. There are some simple steps that parties can take that will greatly affect the mediation outcome. This article will take a look at how to effectively prepare for mediation, so that you will be ready to create the best resolution to your conflict.
Understanding the Mediation Process:
If you have never participated in mediation, then you are not alone. For many, mediation is a vague process. Knowing how mediation works will help reduce your anxiety, fear and limit any surprises that you may encounter. The mediation process is a confidential way for you and the other party to discuss and resolve your conflict. Typically the mediation is facilitated by one to two mediators whose job it is to help the parties discuss their conflict and come to a resolution. Mediators are not judges or arbitrators; therefore they do not make any judgments or decisions. Mediations are party driven, meaning that all decisions and agreements are made by the disputing parties. Mediators are trained to help you come to a decision that all parties can agree upon. Because the process is driven by the disputing parties, many of the rules and participants are agreed upon by all involved parties. Just understanding the process will give you an advantage, in knowing what to expect.
Understand Your Interests:
One of the most important things that you can do to prepare for mediation is to know what your needs and interests are. Before you can identify your interests, you have to separate them from your positions or proposed solutions. An interest is what you what you want to gain from mediation, while a position is how you expect that interest to be met. For example, if you are a divorced parent and interest may be to have more time with your children, and a position would be that you want to pick your children up three hours early each weekend, even though it cuts into the other parent's time with the children. While your interest may have many ways to be met, your position only has one way to be met. Take some time before the mediation to write down your interests and needs. This will help you to be open in finding solutions to meet your interests and increase your chances of succeeding.
Knowing What the Minimum is that You Will Accept:
When trying to resolve any conflict, there will be a compromise, alternate solutions, and give and take. Therefore it is always good to know what the minimum is you are willing to accept in your resolution. Knowing this before the mediation will help you protect your interests, and keep you on track and focused. The best way to visualise this is to know what the best outcome or your alternative option is if you did not mediate. Take time to explore your limits and boundaries. Seriously consider what you will be willing to live with. The more honest that you are with knowing what you can live with the better off you will be. This will help you be prepared when you consider alternative solutions and proposals in mediation and will help you know beforehand what you may be able to live with.
Walk in the Other Parties' Shoes:
Mediation is about finding solutions that will work for all parties. It is a solution making process. Thus the more that you understand the other parties feelings, perspectives, and interests the better you will be able to create a solution that everyone can agree upon. Take time before the mediation to try to understand what a solution would look like for the other party. Try to understand what the minimum is that the other party would accept. This will help you be more creative in finding alternate solutions, and help you to become creative in your proposals. Look for shared goals and interests that you both have. Many times parties come to mediation with very similar goals and interests but have very different positions or ideas of how these interests should be met. When both parties begin to look for mutual ways that benefit the other, mediations become powerful opportunities to create strong and lasting resolutions.
Be Aware of You and the Other Parties' Emotional State:
Conflict is an emotional process that can bring the best and worse out of people. No matter how well one controls his/her emotions, they will ultimately surface. Emotions may be something we have difficulty controlling in conflict, but being aware of them and their power can help. It is always best to know what issues, words, and actions can make us and the other party explode. This will help you know how to approach a subject, and identify what is happening to us emotionally during the mediation. It will also help you to prepare for talking about important and sensitive subjects. Having an awareness of emotions by preparing for them will help you when emotions are high.
Some Final Remarks:
One thing to understand before you mediate is to know that you and the other party are the decision makers. No decision can be agreed upon without you and the other parties consent. Thus it is imperative that everyone works to make a resolution that everyone can agree too. You win only when the other party wins. Thus going into mediation with this mindset will be beneficial and make the mediation more effective.
Mediation is an active process for all parties. Mediation success is based on how well all parties are willing to work to find an agreeable resolution to their conflicts. If parties have an understanding of mediation, understand their interests, know the minimum they are willing to accept, walk in the other parties shoes, have an awareness of their emotions, and understand that they are the decision makers before they attended mediation; they will be prepared. Therefore the more prepared the parties to come into mediation willing to work together, the higher the success rate will be. Preparation may take some time and reflection on your end, but the fruits of your preparation will see in the strength of your solutions.
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