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Mediation: 5 Rules for Success


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Mediation has increasingly become an alternative form of dispute resolution. The process involves a neutral third party who helps disputants reach an agreeable end to their dispute without going to court.

In its beginnings in the 1960s, mediation did not earn much legal professionals’ respect. Fast forward to the present time, and mediation is one of the most effective conflict resolution tools.

But what does it take for the mediation process to succeed?

Five Rules to Help Ensure the Success of the Mediation Process

1. Be right but only to a certain extent — In mediation, both parties may have individual positions they both hold to be right. But both parties can never be right.

If you focus on who is right or wrong, the mediation process is doomed to fail. Appreciating that both of you could be right, but to varying degrees can help. That way, you can come to a compromise based on whose “right” carries more weight while not disregarding the other person’s “right.”

2. Address the problem, not the person — While a dispute could result from a person’s actions or inaction, it is important to separate the problem from the person.

For example, if a person defaults on paying child support, it would help to work on the premise that while they may have failed to pay up, they are not a bad person. Doing so makes it possible to find ways to achieve the overall goal by incentivizing their compliance.

3. Work with facts — While it is okay to take a position, it would be much better if the positions were based on facts. For instance, if the value of a home is of interest in a case, rather than stating the value you believe it is worth, hiring an appraiser to determine the home’s worth can help eliminate baseless back and forth arguments.

4. Focus on interest, not positions — A position is what a party wants, while interest is the reason behind the position. For example, if a couple pursuing a divorce is fighting for a house, one might argue they want to keep the house so that the kids are closer to their school. The other may say they want it because they want access to the garden because gardening is their hobby. With the knowledge of the interests, it is possible to negotiate and come to a compromise.

5. Respect — Respect is critical for a consensus. If one party feels disrespected, the prospects of agreeing are very minimal. The fact that the two parties conflict makes the chances of one party feeling disrespected much higher. Therefore, always focus on being respectful of the other party and acknowledge mistakes, if any.

Take Away

Not all disputes have to be resolved in court; going through the meditation process is an excellent way to reach a consensus while avoiding the uncertainties of a trial. However, keep in mind that everything must be done right to ensure the success of the mediation process.

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