Mediation is more than just a single meeting. It is a structured process that involves preparation and communication to achieve the best results.
In fact, preparation is often more important for mediation than other negotiation types. Being well-prepared makes it easier to explain your side of a dispute, communicate accurately with other participants, and achieve mutually satisfying outcomes.
But what do you need to do to prepare for mediation? While every dispute is different, the basics of good preparation are the same. You’ll need to:
- Assess the situation
- Gather information
- Choose a good mediator
- Build your strategies
- Maintain your composure
- Write your opening statement
Let’s break down how mediation works and why these steps are more likely to make your negotiations successful once meetings begin.
Understanding the Mediation Process
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which a mediator presides over negotiations between two parties with a disagreement.
The goal is for the disputing parties to collaborate and reach an agreement or solution for their problem. Instead of pitting the two sides against each other, they are encouraged to work together, communicate, and compromise to achieve a mutually satisfying resolution. The mediator’s job is to make that collaboration and communication easier.
Mediation is often preferable to litigation. Because it is less adversarial, it is more likely that all parties will walk away happy. Furthermore, since it occurs outside the courtroom, it is significantly more flexible and less time-consuming. If parties are willing to act in good faith, mediating disputes often lead to better outcomes, less stress, and fewer costs.
6 Steps to Prepare for Mediation Correctly
Proper preparation is key to getting the best possible outcome from mediation. These six steps can help you prepare more effectively and get the most out of your meetings.
1. Assessing Your Situation
You cannot negotiate effectively until you understand the conflict. Review your dispute to pinpoint what you believe is the core of the issue.
One way to identify the root of a dispute is by comparing your interests, needs, and goals with those of the other party. Write down your understanding of the situation, including your needs, requirements, and barriers. Do the same for the other party. The source of conflict will likely become clear.
2. Gathering Information
Sometimes, you may not have enough information to understand the other side’s point of view. That means it’s time to do your research:
- Collect information about the matter at hand, including contracts, policies, communications with the other party, financial information, and any other documents that may be relevant to the topic.
- Read through these documents to ensure you understand the current state of the dispute.
- Record any unanswered questions so you can discuss them once meetings begin.
3. Choosing the Right Mediator
The mediator overseeing your meetings can make or break negotiations. Choosing someone with experience in your particular area of concern is crucial to ensure they’re prepared to help you.
A good mediator often has experience in the law surrounding your dispute. For example, the best business mediators in California are often those with prior or current careers in commercial and employment law. Your attorney can help you find a mediator experienced in your field.
Both parties should have an equal say in choosing the mediator. Without this agreement, their neutrality may be in doubt, reducing their authority and the other party’s willingness to listen to them.
4. Build Strategies for the Mediation Session
Mediation and negotiation are matters of strategy. Any good negotiator will tell you that you need to have a plan if you want to achieve your goals. You can work with your attorney to develop a strategy using techniques like:
- Setting multiple goals, from your ideal to your minimum acceptable outcome to a more realistic middle ground.
- Developing counters to potential issues raised by the other party.
- Preparing multiple offers and submitting them simultaneously.
- Drafting explanations of why your offers benefit the other party.
5. Preparing to Maintain Composure
The conversations involved in mediating disagreements can often cause emotions to run high. However, anger is not conducive to successful collaborations. If you aren’t prepared, your negative emotions can cause negotiations to break down despite the mediator’s best efforts.
There are a few ways to keep emotions from impacting meetings. The first is remembering that the other party should act in good faith. While you may disagree with them, they have already shown they’re willing to compromise by appearing at mediation.
The second is to use “I” and “we” statements rather than “you” phrases. “You” statements are more likely to place blame and lead to an angry, adversarial approach, while “we” statements and “I” statements encourage collaboration.
The third solution is to practice mediation scenarios before they occur. You can work with your attorney or partners to identify potential circumstances that could cause emotions to run high. By role-playing these scenarios in mock mediation sessions, you’ll feel more prepared if they actually occur, making it easier to respond professionally.
6. Creating a Mediation Opening Statement
Finally, you can draft your opening statement to set the tone for the rest of the sessions. The goal of this statement is to concisely outline your understanding of the problem, your goals for the proceedings, and the benefits of collaboration. The goal is to demonstrate that you are reasonable and professional from the outset while clarifying why you are present.
Key points to include in your opening statement include:
- Who you are
- Who the other party is
- A summary of the dispute
- An overview of the facts of the case
- Any relevant information about previous attempts to resolve the matter
- A suggested path forward
Ideally, keep the entire statement to just a few pages to ensure no one misses crucial information.
Prepare for Mediation With Expert Help
Successful mediation is more likely when you’re prepared. You can set yourself up for success by working with skilled attorneys and mediators at the Law Offices of Denise Eaton May, P.C. With more than 30 years in all aspects of business and estate law, our experts are ready to help you prepare for mediating your dispute. Discover how we can help by getting in touch today.