If your organization is considering adding mediation to its dispute resolution toolkit, you’re on the path to making your business run more smoothly. However, if you’ve never participated in business mediation before, you probably have questions.
At the Law Offices of Denise Eaton May, P.C., one of the most common questions we receive is, “What makes business mediation successful?” While every dispute is different, there are a few fundamental factors that are necessary for every mediation session to achieve a satisfactory resolution. Below, we outline the five elements involved in successful mediations, then provide strategies that can help you accomplish your goals when meeting with a mediator.
Five Elements That Make Mediation Successful
Mediation is intended to help disputing parties find a resolution through collaboration. This requires participants to approach the process with the right mindset. We have found that the following five elements of mediation are crucial to successfully revolving your disagreement with the help of a mediator:
- Participation: Both parties must attend sessions and actively engage in the process. This engagement includes being honest and clear about their understanding of the dispute and their preferences for the outcome. They must also listen to the other party’s side of the story and assume they act in good faith. Without this basic act of participation, mediation cannot succeed.
- Preparation: Collecting and organizing the information, evidence, and other documents relevant to your disagreement is important to keeping mediation on track. Preparing also means having your offers, potential counteroffers, and minimum acceptable outcome ready to go. This preparation helps keep sessions productive, allowing you to resolve issues more quickly.
- Patience: Mediation can take time, especially in complex disputes. Patience is critical throughout the process. Trying to rush the negotiation process can cause you to misunderstand crucial details or miss an opportunity for a mutually beneficial compromise. It’s better to take your time, communicate clearly, and reach a resolution that satisfies both parties.
- Compromise: The collaborative nature of mediation means that compromise is not just inevitable: it’s the intention. You and the other party must enter the process prepared to make compromises until you reach a middle ground you can both accept. If you aren’t ready to compromise, you are unlikely to achieve your goals during mediation.
- Courtesy: You do not have to like the other party, but you must be prepared to grant them basic respect and courtesy. That means keeping the conversation civil, avoiding accusations and blame, and keeping an open mind. Respecting the other party is key to achieving compromises that actually work.
While these elements cannot guarantee that mediation is successful, they can make successful resolutions significantly more likely.
Four Strategies for Better Mediation
There are many strategies for how to approach mediation that promote the five elements of successful mediation. Some of the most effective tactics you can use include:
Mediation relies on both parties understanding each other’s goals and grievances. Reflective listening can help you achieve that.
To perform reflective listening, you will pay close attention while the other party explains their point of view. Once they finish, you’ll paraphrase your understanding of their point, thoughts, and feelings to confirm you are on the same page. They will then do the same for you.
The practice reduces the risk of miscommunications because it allows you to clarify issues immediately. It also makes achieving compromise easier because it builds good faith and trust by encouraging both sides to understand the other party’s point of view.
Find Mutual Gain
Few disputes are actually zero-sum situations. In most cases, it is possible to ensure both parties benefit from resolving the issue. Mutual gain can take many forms, but your mediator can help you identify opportunities when they present themselves. If you make it a point to find these opportunities for mutual gain, you can achieve better outcomes more quickly.
If you are struggling to find potential solutions to a dispute, you do not have to come up with options on your own. Instead, you can collaborate with the other party to brainstorm alternatives that suit both of you.
A brainstorming session is not intended to be the time during which you narrow down options. Instead, both parties will work with the mediator to list as many solutions as possible. Some of these solutions will obviously not be chosen, but they can be discarded later. The purpose of brainstorming is to encourage creative thinking and help you find out-of-the-box alternatives you may not have discovered during standard negotiations.
Once you fully grasp the other party’s point of view and preferred outcomes, you can begin offering solutions. Bracketing is one way to make these business offers while setting terms for subsequent negotiations.
Bracketing consists of making a conditional offer linked to an expected response by the other party. For example, you might state that if the other party demands $200,000, you will offer $100,000. This “bracket” gives the other party an idea of the range in which your business is willing to negotiate. This reduces wasted time, demonstrates good faith, and keeps the process on track.
Work With Expert San Francisco Business Mediators
Mediation relies on both parties acting in good faith, but the point of the process is that you are not doing it alone. You will have a skilled mediator present who can help you find the best way forward and encourage both parties to continue acting in good faith. The right mediator makes all the difference, which is why San Francisco businesses turn to the experts at the Law Offices of Denise Eaton May, P.C. Our attorneys have decades of experience in litigation, negotiation, and mediation on all sides of the table. We are available to act as mediators for your business or employment dispute, large or small. Contact us today to discuss your needs and learn more about how our California mediators can help you.