For practitioners of the law, mediation is a well-known concept that became part of their lives. To businesspeople, however, the idea of mediation is foreign. When they enter a dispute, they expect to win the case with their arguments. Instead of thinking about cooperation towards a final resolution, they look at business disputes as sources of conflicts.
A neutral third party has a lot of work to help them sort out the situation. Their goal is to help the two businesses find a solution that helps them maintain the ongoing relationship.
10 Mediation Tips: How to Settle Business Disputes
When arranging a mediation meeting, you should have all needed documents with you. Tell all parties to bring the documentation that they plan to show during the process.
If the decision-makers send representatives who cannot make decisions without consultation, the mediation process will be prolonged and ineffective. Businesspeople are busy, so they like sending their lawyers to mediating meetings. However, a lawyer doesn’t have any power to make decisions in their place.
When decision-makers from both sides take active price during the process, the mediator will gain an understanding of their concerns and opinions. The mediator should do their best to bring the two parties together. If that’s not physically possible, an online video conference might be an option.
Listening is the point where all mediation techniques start. Every negotiation process starts by listening. When you listen to the parties of a business dispute, you should be prepared to hear sound arguments on both sides.
If you don’t understand something, ask questions. If you’re not sure if you understood correctly, repeat what you heard so you’ll make sure you’re getting everyone’s perspective.
Microsoft took Motorola to court in 2012 because they couldn’t solve the dispute through mediation outside court. Both sides came well-prepared. Analyze that case. What would you suggest as a mediator? Instead of deciding who’s right and wrong, your goal is to bring both parties to a meeting point.
No matter what mediation techniques you implement, one rule is always valid: you shouldn’t leave any issues unsolved. If you bring the parties to a solution on the main point but you leave something unsettled, the remaining issues will arise again.
It’s best for mediators to use to do list apps during the preparation process. They will note down all underlying issues, so they will discuss them in detail.
Brainstorming is one of the basic mediation techniques that lets you think of potential solutions. Mediators usually cover that stage alone, and then suggest the solutions one by one to the parties in the process. Why not try a different approach? The decision-makers can take part during the brainstorming stage, so you’ll see what solutions they are willing to accept.
Joint brainstorming may be the source of deeper conflict. Explain to them that this is just the first stage, during which you’ll present ideas. Nothing is mandatory and you’re trying to reach a solution. Everyone is allowed to suggest anything.
The brainstorming process helps you identify the goals that both parties would like to reach. In the ideal case, they would continue their business collaboration after you solve the issues. That’s the main objective, but it may not be possible to achieve it. An effective mediator should bring both parties towards a goal that’s realistically achievable and acceptable for them.
Both parties should understand what mediation means. Explain how long you expect the process to take, what goal you’d ideally achieve, and what it will mean for your clients to settle the issue in the calmest way possible.
You won’t find too much creativity when you look at notable mediation cases. Everything seems to be done by the book. In business mediation, however, you might need to offer creative solutions. Maybe none of the tried and proven approaches will work. In that case, you can try something different. You can invite your clients to communicate directly with each other, include a neutral expert to provide their opinion, or create PowerPoint presentations that showcase the outcomes of each point from the narrowed-down list of solutions.
When conflict arises between powerful businesspeople, each party wants to question the authority of the other and prove their own influence in the industry. You’re going to spend hours or days in discussion, and the tension won’t help anyone. Mediators have to do their best to make the process less stressful. Even humor is a good idea when used tastefully.
The business mediation tips listed above give you foundational understanding of the process. When you start practicing it, you’ll realize that each case brings a new challenge. Mediators learn through practice, but it’s important for them to understand the theory behind mediation, too.
This article originally appeared in the February 2002 issue of The Federal Lawyer and is used with permission. “I am sick of the dance and I’m sick of you” barked...By Michael Young