In mediation, the parties focus on addressing the underlying issues in their dispute. This allows them to move away from legal concepts such as fault and often results in a settlement that preserves a business relationship.
It is important for a mediator to understand the interests of all the parties involved in a dispute. This can be accomplished through discussion and by preparing for the mediation sessions.
The skills necessary for mediation are empathetic listening and the ability to encourage the participants to think about alternative solutions to their dispute. A willingness to explore the underlying issues that have contributed to the conflict is also helpful in bringing about resolution. It is important to be alert to what is being said and what nonverbal cues are being used; this may help you uncover a hidden agenda, for example. It is useful to have creativity and inventiveness in helping the parties think about solutions that they might not have considered, such as re-framing the issue or providing a distraction.
Developing and practising mediation skills in the workplace is not just about reducing workplace conflict; it can be about laying the foundation for an organisational culture that puts people and values first. Conflict and hostility can be draining on employees and impact the ability of teams to reach their goals. Mediation is a way to avoid the costs, time and stress of litigation.
The practice of mediation involves a neutral third party helping disputants reach their own mutually satisfactory settlement of a dispute. The process may result in a written agreement that is enforceable in court. It is used in civil, commercial, legal, diplomatic, workplace and community matters.
Mediators use a variety of techniques to open dialogue and promote empathy between disputants and to help them achieve a resolution. The process is confidential, and the content of a mediation session cannot be revealed in a court of law.
While a mediator does not give parties legal advice, they often suggest that disputants consult with an attorney before attending a mediation. This is especially important if a party wishes to get legal advice about what a case might be worth or whether they should accept a certain amount as a “good” settlement. The attorney can also provide disputants with information about what to expect during the mediation, and how to interact with a mediator.
Some mediators choose to earn a bachelor’s degree in a field related to the type of disputes they mediate. For example, if you plan to mediate employment matters in the pharmaceutical industry, a science degree may provide you with essential terminology and understanding of the issues that arise in these cases.
Mediation is a collaborative process that requires effective communication skills. Therefore, a degree in communications is useful as it equips you with an understanding of the various social phenomena that can occur between disputing parties and how to reframe their thinking for productive negotiations.
Some universities also offer specialized master’s degrees in conflict resolution and mediation, as well as undergraduate certificate programs. In addition, you can seek training and experience through private organizations and dispute resolution centers, or join a mediation firm that is affiliated with a professional association. These opportunities provide you with invaluable hands-on experience and networking opportunities. However, you should check with each state’s requirements to find out if they have specific education and experience requirements that you must meet to practice as a mediator.
As mediation has grown in popularity, a number of training programs have emerged to produce trained mediators. In the United States, attorneys and others interested in the field can obtain professional certification through programs offered by various organizations, including the National Conflict Resolution Center.
In addition, many colleges offer degree programs in law and conflict resolution. These programs provide a solid foundation in the theories and techniques necessary to become a successful mediator.
Some professional organizations maintain lists of qualified mediators. Contracts may also specify mediation as the dispute resolution process. In these cases, a third party may suggest or even impose a mediator.
Aspiring mediators often train with an expert in their fields for up to a year before pursuing independent mediation work. In addition, many aspiring mediators take basic mediation training courses to see whether they enjoy the practice and might be good at it. Such courses, however, do not prepare participants for full-time mediation work.