What is Mediation?

Often when I tell people what I do they respond with "Meditation, that sounds so relaxing!" So, needless to say, I have perfected my short response as to what mediation is and what I do exactly. Here is the longer version:

Mediation is defined as an intervention in a dispute in order to resolve it.

I like to say it is one option of many processes to use to manage conflicts where a neutral third party assists those in the dispute to navigate their way through to a solution. There are a few important factors that make mediation what it is.

It is voluntary. This means that all parties in the dispute must agree to use mediation as a way to resolution and that you can not be forced to agree on any issues. When both parties choose to attend mediation they typically tend to feel more invested in the process which can lead to better outcomes.

The mediator is a neutral third party. This means that the mediator will not advance either party's interests over the other's. The role of the mediator is to assist parties in a dispute to have constructive negotiation which leads to better understanding and problem solving than parties can reach on their own. A mediator will not give any independent legal advice, it is a good idea to consider finding a mediation-friendly lawyer to work alongside the mediation process to ensure your interests are being met.

Mediators are trained to provide a safe mediation process, use different tools to keep the discussions moving forward, find common ground and help the parties gain understanding, guide parties to find creative solutions, and know the rules in the area they are mediating to ensure decisions are lawful.

Mediation is informal and confidential. This differs from court which is a very formal process and (in provincial court) anyone can sit in the audience to watch. The process being informal allows for a certain level of comfort; conflicts are emotional and can get uncomfortable, with the flexibility allowed with an informal process it assists the parties to reach agreements while in a positive head-space. If needed parties can take breaks from the discussion, end a session early to pick it up again later, ask for private discussions with the mediator, and much more. Confidentiality also allows for excellent creative brainstorming. The safety of the confidential process allows parties to throw out every idea to resolve their issues which can often lead to the perfect solution for them.

Mediation is not counselling. The purpose of mediation is to find solutions to move forward from conflicts. Counselling often deals with past traumas and challenges. While the past has a place in mediation, it is not the focus. Mediation is a session to plan for the future.

Have you tried mediation before? What did you like and dislike about it? Tell me in the comments.

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