Preparing Equals Successful Outcomes
Remember the big job interview? What about that “make-or break” test, or the important client interview? What was needed to succeed? Preparation. Right! What would have happened without proper preparation for these important meetings? There is an extremely high probability the outcome would not have been good—no job, failed test, or no client.
Mediation is a meeting between disputing parties; it is a facilitated negotiation and an alternative to litigation. The parties in dispute make decisions that determine the mediated outcome. As with any negotiation, the parties must be prepared to give and take, make concessions, and identify options for resolution. Preparation for the mediation is important on reaching a successful resolution. Not only does the mediator need to prepare for this negotiation, so too do the disputing parties. Yes that is correct, the disputing parties should also prepare for this negotiation.
The mediator prepares for mediation by reviewing documents (if any) submitted by all parties and by conducting pre-meditation interviews with each of the disputing parties. Information obtained from submitted documents and pre-mediation meetings is analyzed, synthesized, and used in preparation for the mediation itself; issues and interests are identified, commonalities sorted, questions developed, and options for resolutions flagged. If the mediator does not prepare for these meetings, how would the mediation turn out if the mediator just “winged it?”
Typically the mediator meets with the each of the disputing parties separately to discuss what mediation is, the process, and what is required of the parties and their role in the mediation. The mediator will also ask questions to identify the issues, and interests, which focus not only on the disputants themselves (what they want to resolve, issues, impact on them, what they want, etc.), but also what they think the perspective of the other party may be and what the other party may want regarding the dispute. Each disputant is also encouraged to provide potential options for resolution that may be acceptable to both parties.
Having the disputing parties “step inside the shoes” of the other disputing party helps the parties in dispute think of the issue from another’s perspective—from the perspective of the other party. This helps to break down positions and enables the parties to begin thinking about the dispute in a broader context, thus allowing for a wider number of resolution ideas to be brought forward. It ensures the parties will be prepared to discuss the dispute in depth with the mediator during the pre-mediation interview, and prepares the parties for potentially difficult conversations during a mediation.
As in any negotiation, like mediation, preparation equates to success and the greater likelihood an agreement, that is acceptable to all parties, will be formed.