Mediation offers a way to work together on a solution that is mutually fair and sustainable. It helps you develop the skills necessary for maintaining healthy relationships at home, at work and elsewhere. Most people are familiar with mediation as a precursor to a lawsuit, such as in divorce and civil cases. It can also be an effective way to diffuse conflict and teach people how to communicate in the future so they can work through conflict on their own. This added benefit of mediation proves useful in cases such as financial disagreements, workplace disputes and neighbor-neighbor conflicts.
People often conclude mediation is not right for them because they think it only works if they are reasonable, cooperative or effective negotiators. This thinking is not true. Mediation is for everyone because we all encounter conflict in our daily lives. During mediation, a neutral third person (the mediator) often helps the parties learn to negotiate issues with each other even though they were unable to do so beforehand. The parties become actively involved in untangling the proverbial knot that is in the way of a potential agreement. The mediator focuses on the parties’ needs, priorities and future goals so a creative solution that honors both parties’ perspectives becomes a possibility.
So, why choose mediation?
Control. An advantage of mediation is the parties remain in control of the process. The decision power is completely in their hands at all times. Unlike a judge or arbitrator, the mediator does not make a decision, nor should she have the authority to impose a decision on the parties. In essence, you have the personal power to make your own decision or disagree with a decision, regardless of how a court might decide. In addition, either party may walk away and terminate mediation at any time, without penalty. If no agreement is reached, either party is also free to pursue other options. Knowing this often eases tension and clears the way for new insights into what solution may work best for all.
Unique focus. Every dispute is unique. Although similar in facts, everyone has different circumstances, priorities and goals that often go unnoticed. Unfortunately, judges do not have the time or resources to take into account the individual circumstances surrounding each conflict. Instead, they must decide what is fair or right based on “similar” cases within the law. On the other hand, a mediator takes the time to understand both perspectives and helps the parties realize that it is possible to have an agreement that acknowledges and honors both points of view. By acknowledging each party’s unique circumstances, mediation can empower the parties to find a way through the conflict to a solution customized to their needs. Given the opportunity, wouldn’t you want to decide what’s best for you, rather than have an uninterested third person do it?
Ownership in the outcome. The success of mediation depends on the parties’ motivation to mediate. They need to accept self-responsibility and be willing to agree and disagree. Even if the parties struggle to solve problems on their own, mediation can help. There is no winner or loser, no right or wrong. Knowing this gives the parties the freedom and flexibility to own the process and create an innovative solution together. By taking an active role in crafting a solution, the parties are more likely to stand by their mutual decision and uphold their agreement.
Choose mediation because it is grounded in fairness and growth. The goal is not to avoid conflict, but to move beyond it. Mediation challenges you to establish new communication patterns and learn how to work through conflict, while preserving your unique standard of fairness. And, by working together, you ultimately learn to shift your communication dynamic from adversarial to dealing with others with more openness and understanding. FBN
Tina Ching Skrocki, J.D., is a certified mediator and co-owner of Innovative Conflict Solutions. She feels privileged to be part of a process that encourages creative solutions to preserve the best of relationships. Tina has been a caring member of the Flagstaff community for the past eleven years and is currently also a mediator with the Coconino County Superior Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Program. She earned her law degree from Hamline University School of Law, and furthered her training in Family Law Mediation and Negotiation at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution. She can be reached at 928-814-8348, firstname.lastname@example.org, or you may visit www.innovativeconflictsolutions.com.