The mediation process is sometimes followed in the steps you had all planned out and sometimes it goes in a completely different direction. Regardless, planning ahead and making sure you have each step in your mind can be extremely beneficial. A quick recap of the steps of mediation are (based on my training with Safe Horizon Mediation):
1. Introduction 2. Opening Statements 3. Gathering More Information 4. Developing an Agenda 5. Discussion On Interests 6. Generating Options 7. Evaluating Options 8. Writing The Agreement
The purpose of making sure you have a road map is not just to help keep you on track but also the parties. The mediation is an attempt to find a mutually beneficial solution to the dispute/conflict the two parties are having that is better than their alternative. As the mediator, not having the mindset of the proper order mentioned above could be a disaster. Not only not having them in order could be detrimental, but also forgetting certain stages can also have an adverse effect.
It is also important to let the parties know of the plan of the next few hours. No one likes not knowing the process they are involved in or the method of how things will proceed. The Office of the Ombuds at the University of Hawaii compares a poorly organized meeting to the following (note: I changed ‘meeting’ to ‘mediation’ below):
How is mediation like taking a flight on an airplane? They both need to be carefully designed to get you where you want to go…
Would you board a plane under the following conditions? · The destination is described as “somewhere in the general vicinity of Boston.” · The passengers are not sure why they are on this plane. · The aircraft does not have effective radar for direction finding. · The aircraft does not have mechanisms for dealing with unexpected turbulence. · The flight crewmembers are not clear about their respective roles and responsibilities. · There may not be enough fuel to land the plane. If you’re not sure you would get on a plane under these conditions, good! You may also want to create a higher standard for the mediation you are involved in After I first read that, I found it funny because obviously one would never board a plane under any of those conditions. It could be easily overlooked giving the parties an explanation of how the mediation will proceed so hopefully this little reminder will do just that- remind you to keep the parties informed.
The Ombuds Office uses the acronym OARR- Outcomes, Agenda, Roles and Responsibilities, and Rules as a way to properly prepare yourself and others (read more on OARR here).
Incorporating OARR in your opening statement could help accomplish the task of ensuring the parities know how things will go. The best way I do this is via the opening statement and can easily be done in a few sentences taking only a minute. It is easy to do, but also easy to forget.
Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is a professor at Lipscomb University, researcher, mediator, and trainer. He is also involved in crisis and hostage negotiation as well as a law enforcement detective. His research includes law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiation in terrorist incidents. He received his doctorate from Griffith University Law School having researched the impact nonverbal communication has in conflict situations with respect to developing rapport, building trust, and displaying professionalism.
Dr. Thompson has presented and trained on the topic of conflict, mediation, (crisis and hostage) negotiation, communication and nonverbal communication internationally for a variety of audiences including police personnel, government officials, judges, attorneys, physicians, sales people, business professionals, and both graduate and undergraduate students. He has also been published in numerous professional and academic publications.
He is the co-chair of ACR's national Crisis Negotiation Section, and he is an ad-hoc reviewer for multiple academic journals. He received his MS in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Werner Institute, Creighton University School of Law.
(All posts by Jeff Thompson represent his personal reflections and opinions and not that of any organization.)