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The Magic of Mediation

When I am mediating, I sometimes find myself taking a bird’s eye view, and I am amazed.  Mediation works, and it often works almost like magic.  I’ve asked myself, what is it about mediation that is so special?  Is it some special trick that I do?  Is it a formula?  Is it convincing parties that they need to “settle” their case?  None of the above!

Yes, there is technique and skill involved in being a good mediator.  Yes, the personality of the mediator is important.   The amazing thing, though, is that none of these is the “magic” factor.  It is not “I” who resolves the issues.  It’s as if I’m merely a channel for something else, something deeper.  For, in actuality, the parties to mediation are the ones who help themselves.   While I do provide specific tools, processes, and an avenue for parties to work through conflict that otherwise they could not have resolved on their own, the fact is that once these tools are in place, the conflict sometimes almost seems to resolve itself.

The magic of mediation is the fact that it works so well.  Often, not only is agreement reached but both parties are happy, or at least feel that the conflict was addressed as well as it could be.  This level of satisfaction with the process and the outcome, and the “magic” of reaching agreement after months or years of intractable conflict, is even more astounding when one considers that the mediator does not impose their own judgment.  The parties come up with the solutions all by themselves.  (Self determination is actually a necessary part of authentic mediation.  The parties must have 100% “ownership” over the solution.)  And yet, the process is so powerful!  Something about mediation enables the parties to achieve a different level of consciousness, awareness, or cooperation.   Solutions come up that no one ever would have thought of before.

It was Einstein who said something like, “A problem cannot be solved by applying the same level of consciousness that created it.”  Sometimes I feel as if the parties are lifted up to a different level, as a result of the mediation process, to where they can have a different perspective, or a different kind of ability to see and understand their conflict.

Walking in the woods the other day, I came across a scene that reminded me of how I sometimes think about mediation.

Imagine you are walking through a swamp.  Conflict is like that swamp.


Conflict is not fun!  Conflict is not just cold and wet.  Conflict is also muddy and mucky.

As you wade into conflict, you don’t know how deep it is.  Even the shortest distance can become impassable.

You get bogged down in it.  It can even be dangerous.  You wonder, how to get out.

Often, parties to a conflict can’t see their way to a “win-win” solution.  They lack confidence that things can be worked out peacefully.  They are angry.  They don’t trust the other side.  They think they have to go to court and have a judge impose an outside solution, in order to resolve the conflict.

The good news is that if both parties will come to mediation, there’s a good chance that they can resolve the issues on their own.  For even the most difficult conflict, mediation actually provides a path.

The mediator doesn’t come up with the answers.  The mediator doesn’t do your work for you.

What the mediator provides is a process.  That process is like a boardwalk to help you get through it yourselves.

swamp boardwalk

The neutrality of the mediator, and the skill of the mediator in providing a process, provides a structure and a system that helps parties address their conflict in an understandable, even minded way.

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It gets you out of the mud and onto a dry spot where you can think and move forward.

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The point of mediation is that it helps you focus on where you need to be, where you want to go, what your long term goals are.  And then it helps you – both parties – find a way to get there.  Mediation provides parties with a neutral and fair mechanism to work through conflict.  Once parties find the bridge to agreement, the rest is often like magic.

Do you wish you could find an answer to painful or difficult conflict?  To explore whether mediation might be an option for you, fill out the contact form below:

What’s Your “Plan B”?

I highly recommend the book The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes by William Ury.  (I’ve linked to the paperback edition on Amazon.)  I won’t try to review the whole book right now.  I just want to mention one concept that this book highlights that is crucial to negotiation.  Namely, the importance of having a workable “Plan B”.

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ADVANTAGES OF MEDIATION: 20 Reasons To Mediate Your Conflict

Mediation is proactive.  Generally speaking, mediation provides a neutral mechanism to address conflict long before it escalates to the point of litigation.

Mediation keeps you in control.  In mediation, parties retain 100% control over their agreement, unlike court which puts matters into the hands of a stranger who may or may not share their values.  The mediator does not determine the outcome of the dispute – the parties do.

Mediation aims to be safe.  Mediation is a negotiation strategy that utilizes an expert trained in conflict skills who helps guide and direct the discussion between the parties.  The mediator is like an umpire who doesn’t let things get out of hand.

Mediation is confidential.   Mediation can be as private as you want it to be.  Though there are a few exceptions, nothing said during a mediation can be held against that party later in court.  In contrast to this, litigation creates a public record.

Mediation is informal.  Other than a small number of “ground rules” which are designed to keep order and enable everyone to be heard, the parties and mediator can be as informal as they choose.

Mediation is convenient.  It is always conducted in a neutral location, at a time and place that is convenient for you.

Mediation will not prejudice you.   The parties may obtain legal counsel at any time and do not lose any rights that may be provided to them under contract or law.

Mediation is voluntary.  Both parties must agree to participate, and any party may call it off at any time.

Mediation is cost effective.  Both parties split the cost of the mediator as well as any experts that are required. But mediation most likely uses fewer hours, as well.

Mediation resolves the dispute so you can put it behind you completely.   If the parties reach agreement, the mediator will arrange for drafting of a “Memorandum of Understanding” at the conclusion of the mediation.  Once signed by the parties, the “Memorandum of Understanding” is a contract between them which will be as binding and enforceable as the parties choose to make it.

Mediation helps parties address conflict without destroying their ongoing relationships.  For some parties, this is important.   For others, it is not.  Even when an ongoing relationship is not expected, it can give satisfaction to know that a disagreement has been resolved in a peaceable manner.

Mediation can be fast.  Because timing is in the control of the parties, parties can reach and implement an agreement at any time.  No more waiting and sleepless nights.

Mediation can be slow. Sometimes people need time to mull things over and adjust to ideas.  So long as the parties are moving forward with progress, mediations can be scheduled over several sessions, thus enabling all parties to sort out all options and come to peace with various solutions.  As much as possible, mediation aims to keep a pace that you are comfortable with.

Mediation enables parties to consider more issues than just money.  Often, money is not going to “fix” what really needs to be fixed.  Mediation encourages parties to address root causes of conflict and to address those causes through every means available.  The parties may also be willing to consider options or strategies that would not be available to a court.

Mediation allows you to communicate your position without actually going to court.  A high percentage of cases filed in court are settled prior to trial, with or without the aggrieved party ever getting to state his case.  If you go to trial, the highly structured nature of the adversarial process usually does not allow witnesses to say what is really important to them.  Cross examination is focused on pointing out weaknesses rather than initiating dialogue.  Mediation allows you to air your dispute fully in a process that helps you state your case and which is designed to encourage the other party to really listen and to hear your side.

Mediation de-escalates conflict.  Litigation polarizes the parties.  Mediation helps parties work together to meet common goals and to find fair solutions when common goals cannot be met.

Mediation coaches in valuable negotiating techniques.  Through experiencing and practicing negotiation as coached by the Mediator, the parties gain practice and skill in de-escalating conflict and in collaborative problem solving.

Mediation is less stressful.  Mediation seeks to find win-win solutions rather than “I win, you lose” solutions.   The judicial definition of “winner” also does not take into account the tremendous cost of risk, stress, and attorney fees from protracted litigation.

Mediated agreements tend to stick because all parties have ownership and feel solution is fair.

Mediation is low risk Mediation is not a train that you can’t get off:  if you try mediation and feel it isn’t working, you can always go back to the prior way of doing things.

What have you got to lose by trying?  To schedule an initial consultation, call 803-414-0185 or fill out the contact form on this site.

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