Mediation is like a car. All mediators perform the same function using the same basic principles. Nonetheless, there are thousands of different variations of car and certainly hundreds of different variations of mediation management. What I say here is my version. Of course I would recommend it above all other versions!
Here are the main points. I have not set these out formally, but rather as partial answers to the questions which are probably on your mind when you first consider using mediation.
- Until early this year, most mediations took place face-to-face around a table. That is because we have been communicating face-to-face for the last 1 million years so we subconsciously pick up body language. We cannot do that on a phone call. An Internet meeting is an improvement, but not perfect.
- I was set up for online mediation before this pandemic started. With a good organisational system we can make Internet or telephone mediation work. The mediator will “shuttle” between you and your conflict party on the phone or you separate “rooms” by clicking the right buttons on Zoom.
- If you don’t want the additional stress of worrying about whether your microphone is adequate or your speakers will switch on, we can just use the phone. It works.
- I am confident that I went down with Covid-19 briefly, back in March so I’m happy to engage in a traditional face-to-face meeting if that’s what you would like to arrange. If you prefer, I will fix up a meeting by Zoom or Skype or phone.
- If you think your mediator is going to turn up to your meeting with a big smile and spend two hours trying to suss out what you are arguing about, you would be wrong. Your mediator will talk to you long before the mediation meeting about the meeting time, venue and arrangements, and more importantly, about your dispute. He needs to understand exactly what each participant is aiming for and how each of you see your position in the round. A mediator will also be weighing up your respective personalities and considering how they might affect his management of the meeting (it’s unlikely that he will mention this!)
- A good mediator will be able to hit the ground running when the mediation meeting starts.
- Traditionally, a face-to-face mediation would be booked for one full day. Despite that, many mediation meetings go over the allocated time. I have never known a potential participant who thinks the mediation meeting will last as long as I know it will. We are all only human. A mediation meeting is not just a negotiation with a referee. It’s an opportunity for both participants to talk. At a mediation meeting, even the most logical and cool characters (like you) need time to make your arguments, to respond to your conflict party, to provide explanations, and generally get to a deal you are happy with and write it down.