The Mediation process is very simple. It involves: (1) Concerns; (2) Issues; (3) Exploration; and (4) Negotiation. This process is based on the Facilitative Model of Mediation. Essentially it involves communicating first and negotiating secondly. Sounds simple enough but more and more what I’m finding is that people are very impatient with this process and want to find a solution or to finish the mediation far too early in the process.
Our unquenchable thurst to find a solution in life is one of the main reasons why people find themselves in conflict in the the first place. As the old saying goes…women want to discuss the problem and men want to discuss the solution. In a way we all need to embrace our feminine instincts. I honestly believe that it is a good way to live your life as well. To look at the problem and to avoid the tendency to find solutions too quickly. Probably not good news for the life coaching industry.
The exploration process really involves understanding where both you and the other person is coming from. Not only intellectually but also emotionally. This process can take hours and sometimes days to go through. This process will be slightly different in a workplace mediation context versus family mediation (more emotional) context but the general principles are the same. Once everyone has said their piece then and only then can you move onto the negotiation stage (which should take no more than 2 hours to complete).
Sometimes parties choose to pull out of the process during the exploration stage. They often incorrectly assume that the process is not working due to a perceived exacerbation of conflict. I once had a workplace mediation that was only booked for 4 hours on a friday afternoon. At the end of the 4 hours we were only part way through the process and both parties left the mediation believing that an agreement was not going to get reached and that the mediation was a waste of time.
The reason for this is that they don’t fully understand the process and to a certain extent they were right. During the exploration phase, at times it feels that the conflict is enhanced and not getting better. Successful mediations are not always on track 100% of the time. This is why it is very important to stay the course so to speak.
Sometimes following the process will mean retreating back to the exploration phase of the process while negotiating if something significant comes out. A successful negotiation can only occur once the parties have successfully explored all the different issues first. It is a complete waste of time trying to finish a mediation too quickly for the sake of having a nice and neat agreement.
A major disagreement once successfully explored and negotiated on is an extremely satisfying process. On the whole most people don’t know what this process actually looks like. This is why attending a mediation session can be an extremely valuable learning experience and can inform future disagreements.
For more information on the 4 step process of mediation and communication please read my article
Mark Korduba is a registered psychologist and Workplace and Family Mediation Brisbane