Keeping The Parties Informed
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):
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 is a certified international mediator. He is also a law enforcement detective in New York. His law enforcement role include a being a communication and conflict specialist, interfaith dialogue, developing and implementing community engagement programs, and designing training workshops.
Jeff is currently a PhD candidate researching nonverbal communication and mediation at Griffith University Law School. He also received his MS in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Creighton University School of Law. Jeff has presented and trained on the topic of conflict, mediation, communication and nonverbal communication internationally and has been published and featured with numerous international media organizations. He currently writes also at PsychologyToday.com.
(All posts by Jeff Thompson represent his personal reflections and opinions as a mediator and not that of any organization.)
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