What Is Mediation and How Does It Work?

Mediation is a procedure in which the parties discuss their disputes with the assistance of a trained impartial third person(s) who assists them in reaching a settlement. It may be an informal meeting among the parties or a scheduled settlement conference. The dispute may either be pending in a court or potentially a dispute which may be filed in court. Cases suitable for mediation are disputes in commercial transactions, personal injury, construction, workers compensation, labor or community relations, divorce, domestic relations, employment or any other matters which do not involve complex procedural or evidentiary issues. Attendance at the mediation conference is not always voluntary by the parties, except where governed by statute or contract clause, such as in an employment situation.

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Ideally the mediator is both neutral (in that there are no compromising relationships) and impartial (in that there is no bias toward or against a particular solution). Most importantly, the mediator must be acceptable to the parties and possess the skills to be helpful.

A mediator, through extensive training and experience, has an arsenal of negotiation techniques, human dynamics skills and powers of effective listening, articulation and restatement. The mediator is a facilitator who has no power to render a resolution to the conflict. The parties themselves will fashion the solution as the mediator moves through the process.

What is Mediation?



Simply stated, mediation is a conciliatory process in which a third party supports the participants in reaching an agreement on their own.

The mediator provides guidance about the mediation process, but when it comes to the resolution of the substantive issues at hand, leaves that to the participants. This means the participants, not the mediator, are the decision makers.

Whether or not an agreement is reached is always voluntary, but participation in mediation is not always voluntary, and sometimes, especially in the workplace, it is mandated.

Ideally the mediator is both neutral (in that there are no compromising relationships) and impartial (in that there is no bias toward or against a particular solution). Most importantly, the mediator must be acceptable to the parties and possess the skills to be helpful.

The Mediation Process

Typically, the mediator starts with a short opening statement to orient parties to the process and role of the mediator. Ground rules, such as confidentiality of the discussions and the importance of equal air time for the participants, are established at this time.

Next, taking turns, participants have an opportunity to express and share their perspectives. The mediator is likely to summarize what s/he has heard. When the mediator reflects back what has been heard s/he is not agreeing with one party or another but simply demonstrating an understanding of your perspective.