An Introduction to Mediation
Disputes can have negative impacts on the parties as well as the community. Most disputes arise because of communication problems. Mediation can help the parties resolve these issues by creating an environment that encourages communication. Mediation provides an available alternative to the court system in searching for solutions. Litigation can be expensive and time consuming, and generally produces win-lose solutions.
The Farm Mediation and Arbitration Program provides a no cost, accessible forum for farm related disputes. The program makes the services of trained volunteer mediators available to help the parties negotiate a workable solution for their dispute. Mediation produces a win-win solution where all parties may walk away from the dispute satisfied and content.
Participants in mediation must be willing to creatively explore all options for resolution, negotiate in good faith, and ultimately give a little more than they intended in order to resolve the dispute. Following these guidelines will produce the goal of a mutually agreed upon settlement.
Mediation is a voluntary process in which a trained person or persons, referred to as a mediator, assists individuals by providing a "safe" environment to discuss problems and potential options available to resolve those problems. The mediator has no authority to make decisions for the parties in mediation, but is responsible for guiding and facilitating the process.
A mediator is not an advocate for one party or the other. A mediator is not an advocate for one possible solution over another, but rather remains neutral and impartial during the process.
Mediation sessions are held in a setting that is as neutral as possible for all parties. This allows each party to have a balanced opportunity to participate in problem solving.
The first stage of mediation provides each party with an opportunity to present an opening statement to explain the problem from his or her perspective. Each party is given an opportunity to make this statement without interruptions by other parties. After this initial stage the mediator assists the parties in identifying and clarifying each problem area. The mediator will help the parties redefine and restate the issues in a non-competitive, non-adversarial way to turn the problem into a joint solution.
After the issues have been defined, the mediator will assist the parties in working toward resolution. The mediator will help identify issues that the parties may be able to resolve more easily. Sometimes reaching agreement on smaller issues can encourage parties to work together on the more difficult ones. The mediator helps the parties identify potential options for resolving issues, assists parties in analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the options, and facilitates negotiations by keeping communication lines open and the parties focused appropriately.
Mediation may be completed in one session or it may take multiple sessions depending upon the situation. Negotiation between the parties may involve face-to-face negotiations in a joint session or may involve the use of a separate caucus, where parties are physically separated and the mediator goes between the parties. Mediation may be done in person or by telephone, but the preferred way is in person.
The final stage in the mediation process is preparing a written document to confirm the details of the agreement. All parties are asked to review and sign the written agreement. Once this has been done, the agreement becomes a binding contact between the parties.
The mediation process encourages the development of trust and cooperation by maintaining a safe, respectful environment. This allows parties to work toward meeting their individual goals in a manner that is confidential, informal, cost effective, and flexible. It can also be beneficial for improving both the business and personal relationships between the parties.
Similar to linking two sides of a river together by building a bridge, mediation links the sides of a problem together by building a connection. Think of mediation as the bridge crossing over the waters of conflict. In order to get past the problematic issue all parties must be willing to rebuild communication lines, share feelings and thoughts, and be dedicated to crossing the river together.