Who Attends Mediation?
- The parties will be present and may bring a support person, advocate, or attorney if they wish.
- One or two trained mediators will be present to facilitate the process.
- Upon consent of the parties, undergraduate mediation student observers may attend. These observers will abide the same rules of confidentiality as the mediators.
Where Will Mediation Take Place?
- The mediation will take place in a neutral and private setting chosen by the parties and the mediators. For the most part, the participants will meet together in the same room. However, there may come a point when the parties are assigned to meet in separate rooms. This is common in mediation and the
mediators will explain this practice in detail for the parties, especially the role of confidentiality.
Mediations often take place on campus at Bennington College. The parties and the mediators may also agree on another neutral location for the mediation.
What to Bring
- Notes, maps, pictures, invoices, or other documents that may help illustrate and explain your perspectives to the other parties.
- Potential solutions: It is helpful to have considered several solutions to issues that you may want to propose to others at mediation. This advance thinking can help make the best use of our limited time. This is especially true if there is research you need to do beforehand on the costs or logistics of various options.
Under the guidance of skilled mediators, the focus of the mediation will be to let the parties speak for themselves and work together to find a lasting solution to their conflict or dispute.
The mediators will:
- Listen as each party explains his or her perspectives on the issues of the conflict.
- Keep others from interrupting and help parties listen to each other.
- Help parties speak with each other in constructive ways.
- Ask questions to help parties clarify and understand the issues.
- Help parties negotiate and problem-solve solutions.
- Maintain a safe and respectful atmosphere.
- Assist parties in preparing a written agreement (if desired).
The mediators will not takes sides, assess blame, or tell parties what to do. The mediator will not force anyone to settle. The decision to resolve the dispute is solely up to the parties themselves. Any party can end the mediation process at any time and no one can be forced to agree to anything.
If a settlement is reached, the parties may decide whether to put their agreement in writing. If a written agreement is produced, every participant will receive a copy before they leave mediation.
What the Process Will Look Like
Mediation is a flexible process and does not always proceed in precisely the same fashion. However, a mediation usually proceeds something like this:
1. Opening. The mediators make opening statements that describe the mediation process, confidentiality, and mediation guidelines.
Parties will join the mediators (and observes, if any) in signing an Agreement to Mediate acknowledging and committing to the basic parameters and rules of the mediation process.
Next, the parties will have an opportunity to make a brief opening statement, uninterrupted by the other party, about what brought them to mediation and what they hope to accomplish.
2. Exchange of Ideas and Perspectives. Facilitated by the mediators, the parties will share concerns and perspectives with each other and often ask each other questions. The mediators may also have questions for the parties. These questions will be focused on clarifying perspectives and identifying important issues to be addressed. This portion of the mediation fleshes out the nature and extent of the disagreement (as well as areas of agreement). It often involves a fair amount of argument and emotion. The mediators will work hard here to help keep the discussion on a respectful and constructive course. (see Mediation Tips)
3. Problem Solving and Negotiation. The parties, assisted by the mediators, will identify and prioritize the issues in dispute and begin a process of problem solving and negotiation focused on producing solutions to the issues.
4. Building an Agreement and Decision Making. The mediators will help the parties evaluate the proposed solutions the parties have generated to build a final agreement. When this is done, each party must ask themselves an important question: is it in my best interest to enter this agreement with the other party? If the parties decide it is, most often the next step is to put the agreement in writing.
If the answer is “no,” the mediation ends without agreement and the parties move on to other options. These options may include doing nothing and hoping the dispute goes away, continuing the negotiation or seeking further mediation, and/or legal action.
5. Writing the Agreement. If the parties do reach agreement, the mediators will assist them in putting their agreement into writing. Once this is done, the parties may sign the agreement right away or take some time to consider the agreement and/or have it reviewed by an attorney. Once an agreement is signed, the parties will be responsible for carrying out the promises made in their agreement and may be legally bound to do so.