The mediator & the mediation process
Mediations take place under the guidance of a neutral and independent mediator who structures the mediation process and, as a moderator, supervises communication and negotiations between the parties. It is essential that both parties and interests are dealt with in a balanced way, both during the mediation process and when formulating the end result.
Facilitating the conversation
Mediators never choose sides, have no opinion or interest in particular outcomes and do not take decisions about preferable solutions and outcomes. The power of mediation is that parties themselves know best which solution is acceptable, optimal and workable for them. A mediator can, if the parties jointly and explicitly state this, think along when brainstorming about alternative options in a later stage of the mediation process.
Principles of the process
During mediation, participants go step-by-step through a structured process under the facilitating guidance of a mediator. Before the mediation starts, the mediator always first explains the nature and course of the mediation process and stresses that the key principles of voluntariness, commitment, and confidentiality are essential.
Parties make choices
Mediation offers participants space to speak openly and explore alternative options without immediately having definitive consequences. In the end the parties together work on solutions and make choices, the mediator does not play any role in this.
When parties indicate that they want to start a mediation process, they sign a mediation agreement in which they can include specific arrangements to fit their preferences. The agreement also specifies the costs of the mediation and on how parties will share these costs.
The mediation process the parties subsequently enter into, essentially consists of three major stages. During the exploration stage the focus is on shedding light on both sides of the conflict , related to the content as well as the feelings the conflict evokes. Listening and asking each other questions are key in the stages in order to gain insight into underlying preferences and interests that guide the future. Gradually, the parties together determine what they consider as the heart of the conflict and on what they agree and disagree.
Next starts the negotiation stage which, also in our approach to problem-solving mediation, follows the Harvard model of principled negotiation. Following this model, the parties first generate a broad range of options that tie in with their mutual and divergent interests. The choices they then make are based on a combination of joint and objective criteria.
The solution and arrangements the parties finally agree on in the completion stage are recorded in writing and preferably including the practical implementation of those agreements. That can be done in a formal settlement agreement all parties sign. Such a formal document is, however, not always necessary, for example if the mediation was mainly about improving mutual understanding. After this, the mediation is completed.
Information about mediation & approach