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<xTITLE>Mediation: A Fascinating Journey</xTITLE>

Mediation: A Fascinating Journey

by Jim Melamed
July 2014

This article is the Introduction to the mediation training manual by Jim Melamed available here.

Jim Melamed
Mediation is a fascinating journey. It is rational and irrational, cognitive and intuitive. And there is no shortage of challenge!

For starters, we put ourselves in the middle of conflict on a daily basis. This is our life. The people really do not want to be there. They are there because they are somewhat desperate. Their alternatives are even worse. Why else would they be there? It is like going to a dentist with a toothache. It is their only reasonable choice. They are not thrilled to be paying you either. And note that as soon as you resolve one contested issue, guess what you get to immediately focus on? Yep, the next contested issue! We continue in this seemingly endless cycle until we run out of issues and the people agree and flee or just flee. It is a bit thankless sometimes. Sound like fun?

However they come, they do come. There is no shortage of conflict. It is everywhere and everywhere conflict is these days, mediation is not far behind. Participants are coming more and more to mediation by court, administrative agency or contractual edict. Agreeing in mediation is voluntary, but more and more, as a matter of social, legal and corporate policy, participation in mediation is being required. We are finding that mediation is more and more the "day in court" that we have really never fully had.

These same people are capable of great things. Mediation, for the author, is about assisting participants to be at their best so that they can make most capable decisions for themselves and the people they care about. Mediation is a safe opportunity to see if we can assist people in really difficult situations to resolve matters and move on with the sweetness of life.

As a mediator, we see people at their worst and at their best, and everywhere in between. We assist people who are capable of war and peace. Even without being religious, one can say that "we do god's work." We are the ones who beat the swords into plows, on a daily basis, sometimes many times a day.

Even when we are successful, which tends to be 70-90% of the time, we rarely get great accolades. The participants are generally glad to be through with it. We do our best in each case, only to then be confronted with the next, seemingly unsolvable situation.

So, for the moment ignoring our own irrational commitment to this thankless lifestyle, perhaps the questions ultimately are along the lines of how can we best assist participants to both be at their best and to reach agreement and to do that as swiftly and economically as possible. All of this, of course, in an "impartial" way.

And, hereto, we have thought of this in terms of assisting people in a face-to-face environment. Increasingly, mediators of all sorts are finding ourselves integrating the Internet into our daily practices. How will the Internet impact mediation?

In time, it is suggested that we will be doing more and more mediation on the Internet and this is good. While we certainly do not want to lose our relationships nor connectivity, as a augmentation to face-to-face meetings, the Internet offers a wonderfully convenient, economic, quiet, resourceful, and accessible means of communicating and contributing toward the agreement reaching process. It also often offers a means of continuing the dialogue into the future and to others who are not physically present.


Jim Melamed co-founded in 1996 and served as CEO of through June 2020 (25 years).  During Jim's tenure, received the American Bar Association's 2010 Institutional Problem Solver Award.  Before, Jim founded The Mediation Center in Eugene, Oregon in 1983 and served as Executive Director of the Academy of Family Mediators (AFM) from 1987 to 1993. Jim was also the first President and Executive Director of the Oregon Mediation Association (1985-86). Jim's undergraduate degree is in psychology from Stanford University and his law degree is from the University of Oregon.

Jim has received the following awards: The Oregon Mediation Association's 2003 Award for Excellence; The Oregon State Bar's 2006 Sidney Lezak Award of Excellence; The Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) 2007 John Haynes Distinguished Mediator Award; The 2012 Academy of Professional Family Mediators (APFM) "Getting To Yes" Award; The APFM's first Outstanding Mediator Award (2018); and the Oregon Mediation Association's 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Additional articles by Jim Melamed