The mediator is the neutral third party who assists parties in a dispute to find mutually satisfactory, workable solutions. Mediators use a variety of communication and negotiation techniques. They are educated in law, physics, psychology, sociology, human behavior, philosophy, education and business. Mediators are also trained in the specific areas of dispute resolution they practice. The goal of mediation is to help the parties settle their dispute without going through court and preserving their relationship.
A good mediator must first be able to convince the parties that mediation has something to offer them. The mediator must be able to connect with the parties in such a way that they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, wishes and feelings with her. She must be able to defuse angry or emotional statements by letting the parties know that she has their best interests in mind, that she is not “going to judge them” and that her focus is on resolving the conflict.
After establishing trust, the mediator will give an opening statement about her role in the mediation and will explain the process to the parties. She will explain the benefits of mediation, other alternatives for resolving the dispute and the issues that are usually addressed in a mediation. She will also confirm the case data if briefs have been submitted in advance.
During the mediation, she will facilitate discussion and provide structure for the conversation by establishing ground rules, describing the mediation process and setting a time frame. She will also allow the parties to share their views and emotions in a safe environment. She will encourage the parties to discuss what they really want from the situation and help them identify possible changes that could make it better. She will ask open-ended questions, repeat back key ideas and frequently summarize statements to ensure understanding.
She will also be evaluative, analyzing the dispute and relevant norms. She will not, however, give prescriptive advice to the parties (e.g., “You should do this”). She will assist the parties in thinking about different options to resolve the dispute, but will not decide what solution is best for them.
At the end of mediation, the mediator will write up the main provisions of the settlement and will submit it to all parties for review. If the settlement is acceptable to both parties, they can sign it. If not, the parties will proceed with their litigation in court.
A mediator can be a valuable tool for settling disputes in the workplace and at home. If you have legal questions about your dispute, it is strongly recommended that you consult with an attorney before proceeding to mediation. If you cannot afford an attorney, the Florida Bar or Legal Aid may have programs that can assist you. The sooner you seek assistance, the more likely it is that you will be able to reach a favorable resolution. The longer you wait to settle, the more expensive it becomes.