A mediator is a person from outside the dispute, with no personal stake or interest in the outcome, who is there to assist all parties of the dispute without input of her own opinion or judgment, assisting the disputing people to communicate their points of view, interests and priorities in a calm environment in order to find a mutually satisfactory solution. The mediator's point of view is not important because a mediator does not act as judge or jury and the mediator must keep her opinions out of the mediation.
Mediators are trained to guide discussions from an unbiased perspective, to help people to step out of the conflict spiral and express their real thoughts, feelings and needs, and to manage communication so each person can listen to and better understand the other. Through information sharing and listening, people can start to see the way the other person is thinking, even without necessarily agreeing. Empathy can help open up the dialogue to alternatives which do not seem to be there initially. By recognizing similarities as well as differences in the way each person sees the situation, and seeing the other person's humanity the conflict dynamic can change.
Mediation is a voluntary process : even in a court ordered mediation, no one is obliged to make any choices. Unlike the court, where arguments are made and positions defended by others, and decisions made by judges, in mediation people make their own choices and take decisions into their own hands. This works when people are invited to keep an open mind, to express perspectives and opinions calmly, and to listen to the other party without interrupting. It is easy to assume that we know what the other person is thinking or going to say, especially when there is a shared history with that person, but sometimes listening completely to what the other person is thinking can alter our assumptions The mediation process is most successful when participants are willing to keep an open mind and to make an effort in good faith to resolve differences as equals.
Mediation is a confidential process: mediators must protect the identities and personal details shared during a mediation at all times so your privacy will be completely protected. Information shared during a mediation cannot be brought into evidence in any trial or hearing if it is not discovered through legal process or already known publicly or to the parties involved. Parties to a mediation are also encouraged to keep the details of a mediation confidential to all except those having a need to know.
Outcomes of a mediation :
It is always up to the participants in a mediation as to whether or not they want to record any agreement they may come to during the mediation. If an agreement on the resolution of the dispute is reached during a court appointed mediation, it is advisable that it be documented in a Memorandum of Agreement or recorded in a Mediated Settlement Agreement. In the State of Texas, under the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Title 7, Alternative Methods of Dispute Resolutions, Chapter 154 Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedures, a Mediated Settlement Agreement which resolves the dispute is "enforceable in the same manner as any other written contract".
If no agreement is reached in mediation, the mediation is closed and, if the dispute was referred to mediation by a court, the only thing reported back to the court is that the parties participated in a mediation and did not settle.
Whether any final Agreement is reached or not, mediation can help improve the relationship between or among the disputing parties. This is especially helpful in situations such as divorce or separation where ongoing co-parenting is required despite separation of the couple; where extended family decisions need to be taken and there is disagreement as to how to proceed; in neighbor disputes: wherever the relationships between or among the people involved are ongoing and important.
How can mediation help ?
Whether a legal process is involved or not in a conflict situation, mediation can help people to: