Mediation: A guided tour through rough terrain with six hazards
Mediation is like a tour through a wild territory with some hazards. Mediators can guide the parties through this terrain.
1. First of all, there is a fog of misconceptions about the role of the mediator. He/She is not a judge, an arbitrator or a lawyer, but facilitates the dialogue. To master this, mandate and expectations must be clarified and contracted.
2. In the beginning, it is often like a desert of facades: The opponents like to show their flawless, smooth facade. The style of communication is characterized by caution and lack of open-mindedness. Here, some time should be spent on bringing the parties together in a new kind of contact.
3. If the participants become more courageous and open, the swamp of aimlessness looms large. Various conflict issues are mixed up or the parties get stuck in the first issue, without having an overview of all conflict issues. The mediator leads them to create an overview of the topics in order to break up the conflict into manageable parts.
4. The next section is the thicket of arguments. The chaos of aspects of the conflict must be cleared up: masses of details, feelings, values, claims, wishes and old stories are brought out endlessly. Now it's about clarifying the backgrounds of the positions: What bothers the parties about the other side? We do not just ask what kind of demands and wishes the parties have, but also what feelings, values, and needs to move them. The mediator approaches the thicket from the outside, instead of getting entangled in it. He listens to each party calmly and carefully, asking for the wishes and values.
5. After that, one stands in front of the mountains of intransigence. This is about getting the positions moving and negotiating solutions. Not only the other side should move, but everyone should change themselves.
6. The best intentions, measures, and plans disappear too easily in daily routine. The group is facing the plains of futility. The implementation of agreements is often flawed, half-hearted or even non-existent. Therefore, a risk analysis is important.
This is what the entire path of mediative conflict treatment looks like: for conflict coaching with just one conflict party as well as for mediation with two or more people.
Principles of mediation
Mediation is based on a set of principles, some of which are established by law. It is sometimes difficult to translate them into concrete conflict management:
- The participation of the conflicting parties is voluntary. Everyone can refuse to actively participate in mediation.
- Mediators are neutral regarding the content of the conflict. We also call this neutrality multi-partiality, because they can understand the views and feelings of all parties.
- The conflicting parties are treated as partners who are equal in communication, even if their relationship is hierarchical. They decide themselves what they want to talk about and what positions they take.
- While the parties are responsible for the content issues and decisions, the mediators are responsible for the communication process.
- The mediators are committed to confidentiality. The parties may agree on mutual secrecy.
Overall, the mediation is open to all possible outcomes. Only the parties determine the results, not outsiders. And: The parties can change their opinions and positions at any time and take back previously agreed arrangements in the process of mediation.