Mediation can also be used to settle issues before they get to an escalation point of no return. Doing this takes some practice and preparation but yields results that are worth the time.
Mediation is a legal skill, business skill, but most importantly, it’s a life skill.
Mediation is a conflict resolution technique between two or more parties, where both parties agree to come to an agreement. The differences here are subtle, but important. Mediation occurs because there is a dispute to intentionally find a solution to in order to better the relationship between the two parties. If you are a mediator to your own dispute, and it is not a legal dispute; it is imperative that you can and do remain neutral. This requires you to view your dispute at each step as a third party would see it.
The Mediator’s job is to provide hope. The hope that the two parties can and will come to an outcome better than their current situation is an important part, as it is why the parties have agreed to talk.
Keep hope as your focal point when you use yourself as a mediator.
Step 1 — Write out the issue.
Defining the problems brings clarity to it. When you pen down the issue, using either note in Evernote, a Word document, Notes on your smartphone or an analog pad and pencil or pen, it brings tangibility to the problem. You may be surprised to find the problem was not what you initially thought it was.
Example: There’s an on-going argument between Paul and Susan. Susan wants to take a vacation somewhere exotic. Paul wants a staycation. It’s been this way for their entire marriage. Sue is resentful even after 15 years and has decided to stop talking about vacations completely. This became a mediation once it involved emotion.
The issue here isn’t the vacation, it’s the result of the issue. The real issue here is how time is spent with and without each other. Paul views time has precious and wants to relax and spend his time on vacation with Susan, without distraction. Susan loves adventure and desires thrills and enjoys sharing her adventures with Paul.
As Susan has approached this issue, she has realized that the issue is how to spend time so that both people feel valued and fulfilled. Individual happiness isn’t as important as the happiness of the team together.
Step 2 — Write out three alternative outcomes and rank them.
List out you potential solutions to your problem.
You can also rank them A, B, and C.
Susan’s potential solutions are as follows:
A) Go to Egypt alone.
B) Go on a cruise with Paul.
C) Stay at home with Paul.
Using a mediator’s view, also keeping an eye towards synergy the best possible outcome, in rank order are B, A, C for Susan and B, C, A for Paul.
Step 3 — Logistics.
Decide when and where to have the session.
It’s a time when you both will be ready to talk about this issue. You know the other party well enough to determine how best to approach this issue Words are powerful, be cautious in how you phrase this — you need to show that you want to have a healthy conversation with your partner about the issue instead of making it seem like you are giving the other party an ultimatum.
To build up the courage of having the conversation, Susan needs to make sure that Paul is in the right frame of mind and prepared to have the discussion. She also needs to express what she wants out of the discussion. The best time to have this session for them is out of the house, away from the hustle of their normal schedule and activities. She asked Paul to suggest the time and place, which gives him a feeling of partnering in this discussion, rather than this being sprung on him.
Step 4 — Have the session.
Come to the session with a positive mindset.
Be ready for this to be an emotionally and possibly time-consuming activity. Don’t rush this process.
Be well rested and ready for the discussion.
Paul has suggested a local coffee shop where they both enjoy visiting on a Satruday morning and the shop was quiet and they found a perfect spot to sit, out of the way of anyone else who could overhear . They arrive, together ready to have the discussion about the issue at hand, which is about how their time is spent.
Susan was able to bring the discussion back to the issue at hand by using her practised skill of looking at the situation with the eye of being a third party as a perfect mediator. It is very easy to get pulled back into past disagreements if you lack the ability to view the discussion as a third party.
Step 5 — Write down the outcome.
Remember that you are serving as your own mediator therefore it is important to write down the issues. Relying on leaving the end result to memories which can become hazy with time is a bad idea.
Writing the agreement is the most important part and makes a huge difference.
Sue and Paul wrote their agreement down on a napkin, and then put it on their fridge at their house, which served as a reminder. Paul agreed to going to Egypt with Sue this year. Sue agreed to take two long weekends with Paul, staying at home this year.