Defining Mediation

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary collaborative process where individuals who have a conflict with one another identify issues, develop options, consider alternatives, and develop a consenual agreement. Trained mediators facilitate open communication to resolve differences in a non-adversarial, confidential manner.

The Central Goals of Mediation are to:

  • Reduce obstacles to communication between participants
  • Address the needs of everyone involved
  • Maximize the discovery of alternatives
  • Help participants to achieve their own resolution
  • Provide a proven model for future conflict resolution
Why Mediation?

Mediation should be considered when prior attempts at resolving conflicts have failed or when people need third party assistance in confronting issues. It is an alternative to filing formal charges.

Mediation usually succeeds because it's...

  • Efficient: Sessions are usually held within two weeks at a convenient time.
  • Effective: Issues causing the conflict are identified and addressed.
  • Confidential: The content of the mediation is private, known only to participants.
  • Empowering: The ultimate authority belongs to the participants themselves.

Mediation: A Guide to Conflict Resolution - U.Tulane

Mediation is a means to resolve disputes without resorting to litigation or other adversarial modes of dealing with conflict. By seeking a "win-win" solution, acceptable to both sides, mediation promotes better understanding among disputants. It also costs less, results in more lasting agreements than litigation, and can be used for emotionally sensitive disputes where other forms of conflict resolution are inappropriate.

As a result, mediation has proven useful in a wide range of arenas including parent-child and family disputes, divorce, business and organizational disputes, environmental conflicts, community/neighborhood conflicts, and victim-offender mediation.

Mediation activities makes extensive use of negotiation skills, communication skills, conflict dynamics and analysis, and mediation concepts and techniques.

1) Conflicts are part of life's experiences and have positive value.

Conflict is not the exception. It is the norm and familar to everyone. Conflicts have meaning. When this meaning is understood disputants have an opportunity to improve and change their situation.
2) The peaceful expression of conflict within the community is a positive value.
Perhaps the easiest way for a community to assist in the resolution of conflict is to advocate for its early and peaceful expression, not waiting until it has escalated and can no longer be avoided before taking action.
3) Combining individual and community acceptance of responsibility for a conflict is a positive value.
The community can demonstrate its willingness to share responsibility for conflict resolution by making available to persons in conflict a team of competent and trained volunteer community mediators. However, the mediators must place the responsibility on the disputants for the actual expression and resolution of the conflict. By building a new structure, the community is maintaining a vital mechanism for the direct expression and reduction of conflicts that maintains control in the hands of the disputing parties.
4) The voluntary resolution of conflict between disputants is a positive value.
We can model the advantages of cooperation and mutual responsibility-taking if we keep participation strictly voluntary and work toward jointly constructed agreements that address the needs of both parties.
5) Community diversity and tolerance for differences are positive values.
The mediation process, especially when using mediator teams, can be used to model respect for diversity, and may help provide a space where tolerance for differences can be learned by disputants.

Conflict must be acknowledged as part of everyday living in a community and its surrounding areas. Unless people live in virtual isolation, they are bound to occasionally experience conflict in their interactions with others. Community-based mediation services can help enable individuals to make the most of conflict. Some of the important functions and goals of a conflict resolution Service include:

  • A community infrastructure prepared to respond to conflict promptly and flexibly, before it escalates toward violence or abuse.
  • A forum that promotes taking responsibility for one's own affairs and which helps participants develop critical life skills by modeling cooperative means of resolving disputes.
  • A tool for helping to improve retention rates and improving morale.
  • An avenue for building and enhancing relations with local community members, police, landlords and neighborhood associations.
  • A neutral source of moderators or facilitators for public debates or discussions.
  • A rare opportunity of close interaction (during training and while co-mediating) between members of a community, around a shared project.
  • An informal forum for dispute resolution for people who would prefer to privately handle their disputes rather than go public.
  • An inexpensive resource for the ongoing training of an increasingly diverse group of community members in conflict resolution skills.
  • An increasingly widespread network of trained individuals from all areas of the community structure who are committed to the nonviolent resolution of conflict and are willing to volunteer their time to help it happen.

Adopted from - Bill Warters, "Some Important Functions Provided by a Campus Mediation Service" and "Beginning Thoughts on The Values and Ethics of a Campus Mediation Center

There are three other compelling reasons why mediation should be used early. Mediation:
...preserves important relationships,
...allows for sensitive negotiations to occur in private, and
...allows for negotiations to be confidential.
The benefits of mediation are that the process is: understandable, convenient, comfortable, timely, affordable, confidential, healing, empowering, and effective.
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