Each mediation is an opportunity for the parties to sit down in a safe environment and resolve their disagreement(s) by speaking freely and respectfully and by really listening to the other party as that party speaks uninterrupted about their dispute, from their point of view. It is a chance to make their own decision(s) and solve their own problem(s) while maintaining privacy and avoiding court. Often parties in difficult situations are able to move on with their life.
The mediator, a neutral third party, helps parties work together to resolve conflict. The mediator does not solve problems, but helps parties work together toward a mutually beneficial resolution.
The mediator controls the process; the parties control all the decision-making and thus, the resolution, which is a mutually-decided solution. Relationships can be preserved, as mediation is not an adversarial process. Parties take responsibility for their own solutions, so they are more likely to keep their agreements.
Some ways that the mediator controls the process is by making sure that all parties have a chance to speak and to be heard and by making sure that the power of the parties is balanced – that one party does not “take over” the mediation. The mediator helps the parties communicate, clarify issues and brainstorm and/or negotiate solutions. Even when agreement on a solution is not reached, parties often walk away from the mediation with a better understanding of the other party’s position and improved communication between the parties.
Most disputes can be mediated in one session of less than two hours. Complex issues, though, do arise, especially in domestic relationships or Special Education mediation. In those instances, sessions may run longer or a subsequent session may be scheduled.