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Case Development as a Tool for Successful Mediation

by Joyce Odidison
June 2003 Joyce Odidison
The complex emotional state of the disputing parties, and our past failures to attain reconciliation have increased our recognition of the need to prepare parties entering mediation to participate effectively. Mediators are sometimes stymied by the lack of negotiating skills that parties exhibit.

Case development (also known as pre-mediation) is an important process for increasing the success of mediation. These private caucus sessions are confidential and part of the mediation process. During case development, the mediator or convenor formulates an in-depth analysis of the parties’ unique situation, needs and abilities, in relation to resolving their dispute.

The convenor undertakes mediation orientation, conflict resolution coaching, and skill building, which leads to the compilation of a comprehensive case file. The practitioner is responsible for ensuring that disputing parties are prepared for success in mediation, and should encourage even reluctant parties to include readiness as a part of the process.

Mediation preparation presents the practitioner with an opportunity to analyze each party’s individual:

  • Conflict resolution skill level
  • Emotional state
  • Ability to identify the issues of the conflict
  • Ability to communicate effectively and persuasively
  • Ability to manage anger effectively
  • Recognition of his/her own responses to the conflict

Suggestions of negotiation and collaborative interchanges are counter-intuitive and often resisted by disputing parties. The case development process provides the practitioner with an unparalleled opportunity to introduce the disputing parties to the notion of negotiating, mutual decision- making, collaborative approaches, and interest-based interchanges. Individualized pre-sessions that include coaching and skill-building, allow parties -- who might otherwise be unsuccessful at mediation – to be assisted to effectively participate in the process.

Practitioners should provide no less than two hours to meet privately with each party. This should comprise reflective opportunities to help the party develop a deeper awareness of the issues of the conflict. Discussion should be aimed at alleviating anxieties concerning the issues and the mediation process. Collaborative, persuasive, and interest- based exchanges should be encouraged and practiced, to increase the party’s ability to negotiate effectively in mediation. In some cases, the practitioner may need to work with a person with a cognitive disability to ascertain what kind of support or process adaptations may be required for the person to be successful in mediation.

Lack of party preparation for success in mediation represents a missed opportunity. Mediators who do not conduct their own pre-sessions should thoroughly review the case development report to be familiar with the unique needs and situations of the parties, and to prevent awkward moments and uncomfortable experiences in the mediation. The report needs to include a summary of issues assessed as potentially challenging for the parties in the mediation process.

Preparation for mediation has proven very effective and compelling for the parties who have reported a great satisfaction with case development sessions.

The mediation process can be effective and compelling for the parties when they have the benefit of efforts to enhance their readiness for mediation.

Biography


Joyce Odidison, MA, PCC
Conflict Analyst, Interpersonal Wellness Expert & Coach

Three years into her mediation practice, a client got so distraught while in a mediation session, he had a heart attack in Joyce’s office. He survived. However, this was a turning point in Joyce’s career and led to her commitment to transforming interpersonal conflict to interpersonal wellness. She then created the Pre-Mediation Model, a coaching process to help clients prepare for success prior to mediation, outlined in her book: “Getting Ready for Mediation: A Pre-Mediation Concept”. Later, Joyce created the Interpersonal Wellness System model and the Interpersonal Wellness Quotient (IWQ) Personal Assessment Instrument, a multi-dimensional integrated tool to help clients identify their capacity to contribute to the wellness of their interpersonal relationships.

Joyce Odidison is currently one of the world’s leading Interpersonal Wellness experts, speaker, coach, author of three books and the CEO of Interpersonal Wellness Services Inc. – a performance enhancement, consulting, coaching and training firm, where Joyce has worked organizations, supporting their leaders and employees to manage conflict, prevent burnout, manage stress, reduce turnover and enhance interpersonal skills and build capacity for conflict management, wellness and excellence.

Joyce is also the Training Director of Interpersonal Wellness Coaching Institute where she trains and mentors consultants and coaches to become Interpersonal Wellness Coaches and Facilitators who are licensed to use her integrated wellness model, assessment tools and products in their practice with clients, to improve wellness and maximize their results.



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