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The Mediation Process

Role of the Mediator


In contrast to a judge or arbitrator who has decision-making power, the mediator does not resolve the dispute. The mediator's job is to help the parties raise difficult issues, identify their interests, improve communication and work together to create options and reach agreement. The mediator has no power to force the parties to agree to anything.


Besides not being a judge, the mediator is also not a legal expert, counselor, therapist or even an advocate for resolution. Resolution is up to the parties. The mediator's job is to bring the parties together and help them to communicate productively.


Starting the Mediation Process


Mediation can occur at any point in a dispute, generally the earlier the better. Mediation usually makes most sense when:


  • Parties have tried and failed to settle the matter;
  • Tempers have cooled somewhat;
  • Information has been gathered (records are on hand, regulations have been reviewed, etc.) so parties can talk knowledgably about the matter and possible options;
  • Parties still have control of the outcome (superiors, the court system or others have not become part of the decision-making process) and are willing to try to work things out.

Unless a court or other entity has ordered you to mediation, you will have to suggest it.


An easy way to let the other party know that you would like to mediate is to send them a brief letter saying you would like to try to resolve your dispute through mediation and will be contacting a mediator. The mediator can then explain the mediation process to the other party.


Overview of the Mediation Process


There is no required protocol, but mediations generally follow this format:


  • Introduction by the mediator: The mediator reviews the purpose, process and ground rules of mediation
  • Statements by the parties: Each person has a chance to tell his/her story.
  • Identification of issues to be addressed in the mediation: The mediator helps identify where there is agreement and which issues remain to be resolved.
  • Exploration of options: Parties explore and discuss ideas for addressing the interests of both sides.
  • Reaching agreement: Parties determine which issues they can resolve and the terms for the resolution.
  • Recording the agreement: The mediator helps the parties put into their words the terms that both find acceptable as well as their understanding of what happens if the agreement is not performed.
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