People disagree. It just happens. Businesses that have worked together for years might unexpectedly find themselves at an impasse. Friction might heat up between employers and employees. Well-meaning stakeholders in your nonprofit may share a goal but have very different views on how to reach it.
Courts can resolve these disputes. And if they need to, they will. But resolving a dispute is not always the same as solving a problem. Most of the time, the people in the dispute have a better idea of what will solve their problem than a court does. The trouble is they’re so locked into their positions they can’t work together to find that solution.
Mediation Can Help
Mediation is a process that is guided by a mediator but controlled by the parties. Within a structure and process set up by the mediator, the parties decide what matters most to them and talk through what has frustrated them, what worries them, and what they hope can happen.
Why Mediation Works
“If we could work this out on our own, we would. So what would be the point of mediation?”
The point of mediation is it doesn’t leave you to work it out on your own. Mediators (like Chad at Rubric) are trained to help parties in conflict better understand their dispute and maybe see a way to fix it. Mediation works for many reasons.
- A trained mediator is not invested in the outcome. That neutrality frees the mediator from trying to reach any particular agreement or resolution. Whether you forge an agreement is up to you.
- Parties often come into mediation angry or frustrated with the other side and unconsciously locked into their own view of what is right (and wrong). The mediator can help them step back, reframe the issues, and see the underlying fundamental issues that matter most to them.
- In court, judges and the rules they are bound by set limits on what is presented, how it is presented, and what is technically relevant. In mediation, parties aren’t confined to those limits, and a mediator helps make sure everyone has a chance to express what they think is important.
- Statutes and other laws limit the power of judges and juries, meaning their rulings are not very flexible. Parties, working together, have much more flexibility.
- Parties often eventually realize two key things: a) They don’t want to stay in this conflict, and b) they can’t change the situation without cooperation from the other person.
- People do best in mediation when they recognize that continuing to fight has costly consequences. Bridges get burned, relationships damaged. The fighting distracts you from the things you want to focus your energy on—your business, your family, your mission. And lawsuits cost money, even if you win.
- Mediation puts the control in the hands of the parties. If you craft an agreement, you eliminate the risk that the judge or jury will hand down a ruling that neither party likes. And when parties build their own agreements, instead of having the answer imposed on them by a court, those agreements are much more likely to last.