OK, so you’ve managed to get into a disagreement with someone. It may be that you have fallen into a pattern of the same argument every day or it may be that you have just had the biggest, worst argument ever or it may be that one of you is giving the other the silent treatment or it may be one of 100 other ways that we can torment each other when conflict gets ugly. Whatever it is, now you’re stuck in the conflict and you might be willing to try mediation if you thought that it could help.
In mediation, the mediator acts as a neutral third party in the conversation to help you to navigate the conflict successfully.
You should try mediation because:
1. It’s not counseling. Don’t get me wrong. I think counseling is great. The difference between mediation and counseling is this: Picture the conflict as baggage that you bring into the room. In mediation, I will help you to move that baggage from Point A to Point B. You unpack your bags in a therapist's office.
2. It’s not litigation. Litigation is an adversarial process that pits you against each other. One side does battle against the other, with the judge determining the outcome. Your voice can be lost in the process and your relationship with the other person may be destroyed.
3. You are going to have to see the other person on a regular basis. Say, for example, that you and your co-worker have different ideas about how to share the workload. Even if you never go out socially, you are going to have to see this person on a regular basis until one of you changes jobs, retires, or dies. Maybe you should mediate before things get out of hand.
4. You are going to have an ongoing relationship with the other person. You may not want to hear this, but if you have a child with another person, then even after you are divorced, you will still have a relationship with that person. Co-parenting is hard enough when you are together; it's even harder when you are apart. Mediation can help with those tough conversations.
5. You want to determine the outcome. Judges do a great job. At the same time, they really know very little of you before reaching a decision that can forever impact your life. Wouldn't you like to determine the outcome as much as possible? Mediation allows you to do that.
6. You want to talk things through with the other person. As a lawyer, a lot of "client control" involves teaching the client not to talk. The lawyer is to do all the talking unless absolutely necessary (like at the trial when the client takes the stand). Litigation is like war. The lawyer is protecting your best interests and keeping you from saying anything that might come back later to bite you. However, you can feel stifled.
7. You think the emotional effects need to be discussed as much as the financial effects. Law is a business. Much of it becomes a numbers game. You may want to talk about more than just the numbers.
8. Mediation is almost as confidential as a consultation with your lawyer. Few things in this world are as confidential as lawyer-client communication. However, you can talk freely about settlement options with a mediator and those discussions are confidential, except as provided by law.
9. The Post Office is doing it. You know the old expression "going postal." If the Post Office thinks mediation is a good way to resolve disputes, you should listen. After all, they deal with "postal" people on a regular basis.
10. Mediators are nicer than lawyers. It’s not the lawyers’ fault. They are trained to see and expect the worst of everyone. If they didn’t see it, they wouldn’t do as good a job protecting you from it. Lawyers are also trained to be gladiators, fighting for their clients’ rights against all odds sometimes. Mediators are trained differently, and can often see the good in everyone.
So, keep your lawyer on the side for legal advice, keep your therapist on the side to tend to your emotional needs, and hire a mediator to help you to successfully navigate conflict. It could save your relationship.
Call me at 207-632-1111 or email Karen to schedule an appointment.
Meredith Mediates is the business name for Meredith RIchardson, conflict management specialist and mediator, serving Maine and New Hampshire..