We’ve been reflecting a little on the factors that contribute to a successful outcome for the participants in mediation.
Willingness to Try
Generally speaking, the most important factor is a willingness from both participants to engage in mediation with to address past issues. This with a view to drawing a line under what has been in the past and moving on to establish something more positive for the future. Trusting that another person is equally willing to adopt this stance is a difficulty that the hundreds of people who engage with our service are able to overcome every year.
Clear View of Needs
It helps when parties can express exactly what they need from the person they are in dispute with. Many of us know what we want. When we convey to others the need behind that want progress can start to be made. People can more easily identify with other people’s needs and show empathy for their circumstances than they can with being told what or what not to do. Without being judgmental, our mediators can help all parties to identify their needs, to help them work out whether or not they feel their needs are fair and reasonable and to convey them to each other in a way they can be heard. Reflecting on their own experience of mediation, this is what one party had to say: ‘I know a big part of the problem is my ideas about what is respectful…and the ideas of other people being so different’. That’s probably the most honest self reflection anyone has ever shared with us. We are all so different and do have different lifestyles and values. Mediation helps people to find a mutually agreeable way to deal with those differences. Happily, the same person reported that she/he felt her mediation was very fair and had been able to reach agreement with the other party.
Ability to Listen
Another factor is the ability to listen to someone else’s perspective; their view of the same situation. One of the main reasons why mediators have to remain neutral, not to take sides with one party or another, is that misunderstandings can occur. Even when it seems that one action or another seems deliberate, it can often arise out of ignorance for another person’s experience of that action. Sometimes an action can be deliberate but arises from a response to some other perceived wrong doing. Again, the hundreds of people who use our service each year have to trust the mediators’ skills to enable clarification of everybody’s perspective. This also involves the mediators listening carefully to each individual’s perspective of a situation during private sessions. Here is what one recent party to mediation had to say on the subject: ‘I felt [the mediators] really took time to listen and understand what was going on and the impact it was having on me.’ It would have been their goal to ensure that the other party also had the same experience.
Meet Face to Face
With more than 95% of cases concluding in agreement or better understandings at Joint Meeting it is clear that mediation is most successful when parties meet face to face to talk about the difficulties they are experiencing. Where mediators shuttle back and forth between parties in separate rooms the success rate is reduced to just over 60%. We believe the difference is making that connection, being able to read people’s body language and hearing the way something is being said, rather than relying on a third party to convey all of this on behalf of one person or another.
So, in conclusion; keep listening, keep talking, be clear about your needs and don’t ignore a problem. It helps to talk and a mediator can help people to find a way to express current difficulties and develop ways to handle any new difficulties that may arise in the future.