Advantages of online mediation

Our professional strategy

At the outset, we would like to make clear:

  • We do not see working by phone or with Internet and online systems as any different from mediating in the “traditional” way, face to face. Online mediation is simply about making the best of simple technology. It can work well.
  • Andrew Taylor operates as a mediator using “facilitative” mediation. He will apply the same professional rules and recommendations to every element of every mediation.
  • The use of online mediation is not an “all or nothing” strategy. In the normal way of things, Andrew Taylor will use whatever method of communication is efficient at any stage, whether or not your mediation takes place largely at a face-to-face meeting.
  • A complicated dispute is more likely to be settled to the satisfaction of both participants through a face-to-face meeting.
  • We will give you the opportunity to instruct the Mediator to use the traditional “shuttle” process by telephone and email if that is the choice of both participants.
  • The Mediator will in any event discuss matters relating to procedure and venue in advance of the mediation meeting. Until you have signed the mediation agreement, neither of us is bound in any way.

How technology helps us to provide a better service

The best procedure is one which provides:

  • maximum relevant information available to both Participants and to the Mediator.
  • an opportunity for the parties to confer with others when that is required
  • maximum understanding of each other’s position by reading not only text, but  body language, tone of speech, and so on.
  • an atmosphere where both parties are psychologically comfortable. (We refer to that as a “level playing field”)
  • a fast and efficient outcome.
  • as low a cost as reasonably possible.

The advantages of Internet and Internet-telecon:

  • Overcomes distance

As many disputes arise in cross-border trade as at home.

Some form of electronic communication provides a means of cross-border mediation. It is particularly useful to take the mediation process as far as possible, before the parties travel a considerable distance for a face-to-face meeting.

Out goes the stress and cost of travel arrangements, venue cost, timing, car parking, travel time and travel cost. Add the cost of senior management time and the saving is enormous.

  • Speed

There is less to diarise; less to arrange. You are in charge. Take it as fast or as slowly as you like. The Mediator is the intermediary, informing, cajoling, suggesting, until you have a deal or time is up.

  • Precision

We all write more precisely than we speak. That is largely because we have the opportunity to fine tune what we write.

  • Flexibility

Email/Internet arrangements are flexible. Internet messages can be replied to when convenient, or delayed while you confer with a colleague or discuss with your solicitor. That means a party can be more relaxed, more confident in moving to the next step.

As against a final, live meeting, Internet mediation could be concluded either urgently, over a short period of time, or could be allowed to spread over some days, or even weeks. There are many possible reasons why one or both parties should need that extra time.

  • No need to meet face to face

We have explained the advantage of face to face communication. There may be a downside. If you simply cannot bear to look your opponent in the eye, or you have felt threatened in the past, the ability to negotiate remotely and via the Mediator, can be a great relief to you.

The disadvantages of Internet mediation

  • With no physical presence and therefore no face to face communication, it is psychologically more difficult for the mediator to influence the parties.
  • Because there is no physical meeting, there is no sense of “coming together for a purpose” that might help to induce ideas or concessions that could lead to settlement.
  • Internet mediation may require a fixed appointment time when both parties are available to exchange messages with the mediator or confer in a telecon. In that situation, the parties might get bored by inactivity and soon feel imprisoned while waiting for the next call.
  • A conflict party might just be impossibly busy. We might hear the question: “Have we time to fix a refreshment or stretch our legs?” “Maybe we can just make a few short calls?” People do. The result is that the procedure gets extended unreasonably, while we all wait for the “short call” to be over.

Up close and personal

Here are the principal advantages of face to face mediation.

  • Body language improves communication

The human race has evolved to recognise body language whenever we communicate face to face. It is said by psychologists that body language is 75% of a communication. Whatever the percentage, it is self-evident that we understand body language intuitively. So, to communicate in any way that is not face-to-face puts both sides at a disadvantage.

  • Trust, and the mutual desire to settle

The parties have agreed to get together to try to settle their dispute. That alone creates an atmosphere where settlement is likely to happen under the guidance of the Mediator. Alone in their own home or office, the anger and resentment aroused by the conflict is unabated. Talking to the Mediator and hearing him relay proposals and test your ideas and preconceptions leads to realism and release of the awful stress of conflict.

  • Your conflict party is a public organisation

Government and to a lesser extent, governmental organisations, must make almost all recorded information public when called upon to do so. So if confidentiality is important either to them or to you then a face-to-face meeting is essential.

  • The Mediator’s skill

The mediator can use his people skills, experience and knowledge to identify ways in which the parties have a common interest in resolving their dispute and routes to a settlement not previously considered by the parties.

Note: there is no saving on the actual mediation time. The Mediator is as careful, thoughtful and thorough when dealing by Internet and telephone as when dealing in person.

Summary

  • face to face mediation engenders a sense that the occasion should result in a settlement, so it is marginally more likely to give you a settlement.
  • you may want Internet-only mediation because you have had all the personal interaction you can put up with, OR maybe one side tries to bully the other OR one side fails to realise he/she has no case;
  • some of the mediation meeting time can be saved by extending the Internet part of the process so far as it is more efficient than sitting bored, in a some meeting room.
  • as a very rough yardstick, if your dispute is “worth” £100,000 or more, go for traditional face to face. Conversely, if the value is lower than £25,000, Internet only or Internet-telecon is the simplest and cheapest way forward. Between those figures, we have no comment.
  • if you need a tough referee, go for face to face.
  • if you are dealing with a governmental organisation, then a face-to-face meeting is likely to be confidential.
  • Whatever way you choose, the Mediator’s fees are based largely on time spent.
  • multi-party mediation works best when the mediation concludes with a physical meeting of the parties.