Information on the mediation process

What is mediation?

Mediation is a process by which a neutral third party (the mediator) assists two or more people or organizations in dispute to identify disputed issues, develop options, consider alternatives and try to reach an agreement.

The mediator has no advisory or determinative role in regard to the content of the dispute or in helping the parties reach resolution but may advise on, or determine, the process of mediation.

What happens in the mediation process?

The mediator welcomes each person and explains the mediation process. The mediator will then ask each party to give a brief outline (less than 5 minutes) of their principal concerns and what each would like to achieve from the mediation. While each person talks about their concerns, the mediator will take notes on what is said and will read this back at the end to ensure he/she has understood the issues correctly.

The issues will then be written on a white board to provide a structure for the discussions. Each party is then asked to give their views and explain their perceptions to the other on each issue. When all of the issues have been fully discussed, the mediator will have a private session with both parties, explore options for resolving the points of difference and finally piece together an agreement.

Who can be present at mediation and how confidential is it?

Advisers, supporters, witnesses and other persons can attend the mediation if the parties agree, and if they sign a confidential agreement. The parties can agree on what will be said publicly about the mediation. Neither party can give evidence in court about what was said in the mediation, nor produce in court documents prepared for the mediation.

Private sessions with each person

As part of the mediation process, it is usual for the mediator to meet separately with each party on a confidential basis. Normally, there will be at least two private sessions. The first occurs before the mediation (a pre-mediation meeting) to discuss the concerns that have led to the dispute and determine what each party wants to achieve from the mediation. The second is convened during the mediation when all the issues have been discussed, just before the exploration of options. The parties can also speak to the mediator alone, or can ask for the mediation session to be adjourned if they should so wish.

Mediator’s Role

Besides facilitating the mediation process, the mediator’s role is to create a favourable environment for dispute resolution, to assist each side to negotiate, and to minimize intimidation or other causes of anxieties in the parties. The mediator establishes a favourable climate that is conducive to cooperation between the parties by opening up the channels of communication.

One of the mediator’s most important roles is to empower the participants so that they perform well and get the most out of mediation. Bringing about this empowerment requires the mediator to assist the parties in various ways. Typically, this includes interventions to enable the parties to understand their situation, to communicate effectively, negotiate and make decisions, and feel good about the mediation process and its outcome.