Mediators ask the darndest things!

Mediators ask the darndest things!

Mediators ask the darndest things!

No two conflicts are ever the same. But there are common pit-falls that keep them from being resolved. Skilled mediators ask smart questions to help their clients understand each other and better achieve their desired outcomes. The result is creative solutions everybody can be happy with.

By Ehsan Ali and Alnoor Maherali

Many of our mediations are with people who have never done a mediation and are not quite sure what to expect. Some come to us because they know someone who has used mediation and found a great outcome through the process. Some have tried other dispute resolution options and faced either huge expense or outcomes they were unhappy with.  Because our clients come from a variety of backgrounds and levels of familiarity with mediation, every client of Venn Mediation receives a free consultation. This lets them learn about the mediation process and how it can help them to solve their dispute.

In mediation, a neutral third party helps people come to an agreement or resolve a disagreement. Instead of imposing an outcome like would happen in court, the mediator helps their clients to reach an agreement on their own. It is a voluntary and confidential process that gets people working together to achieve workable and long-lasting solutions.

Once the mediation starts, it tends to take on a life of its own. No two disputes are ever the same, and skilled mediators work with their clients to ensure that both the process and the outcomes are tailored to their particular needs. However, certain questions are commonly used to help all parties achieve great outcomes. The following are some things you may hear in a mediation session:

1. What are you hoping to achieve from this process/get out of the mediation?

This is generally one of the first questions a mediator will ask each person, because it helps to focus the discussion on what matters to them. It encourages each person to think about what their goal is and to communicate that to the others at the table. A mediator can then start to explore why that outcome is important and the ways in which the parties can achieve it. In some cases, what someone is seeking at the start of a mediation can evolve into something different that still achieves their goals. This is because the mediation process helps people to better understand the core issue(s) that brought them to mediation and to identify the interests behind their ‘asks.’  And one of the incredible things about mediation is that it allows for creative outcomes that could not be ordered or imposed by a court or arbitration.  

2. How would you have liked things to be?

Once it is clear why each person is at the mediation and what they’re trying to achieve, it can then help to understand what has so far prevented them from resolving their dispute. Many conflicts that end up in mediation are the result of mismatched expectations or a situation that escalated unexpectedly. In these situations, it can help to understand how each person had hoped things would have gone. While the other party is likely unable to change what was already done, they can at least better understand their counterpart’s concerns or frustration.

3. Tell me more.

Many disputes that end up in court start as discussions or negotiations that have gone unresolved, mainly because the parties are unable to communicate with each other. And it’s these communication difficulties that a neutral third party can help disentangle. For this reason, mediators often ask their clients to, “tell us more.” This allows parties to communicate everything that’s important to them and helps ensure all the information is out in the open. As a result, most people are amazed with the things they can learn in a mediation. 

4. What might happen if you don’t reach an agreement today?

In mediation, people are always in control of their own destiny. This differs from court where parties are stuck living with decisions made by a judge; who is often deciding on the basis of predetermined rules and is unaware of the interests of each party. One aspect of this control is that parties can walk away without a deal, in situations where walking away is a better outcome than the deal being offered. But when a deal is possible that would benefit all sides, good mediators help the parties to evaluate everything they have to gain from reaching an agreement. In these scenarios, the mediator will ask each side to consider what might happen if they don’t reach a deal in mediation. A party may be stuck on one or two points they want in their  “ideal deal.” And while those points can seem all important, they must be considered in light of all the gains that would be lost if the deal falls through. Skilled mediators help their clients to evaluate whether they could be satisfied with the proposal on the table, and what their next steps look like either way.  

No two mediations are ever the same. But skilled mediators get their clients to successful outcomes by asking smart questions and continually building understanding between parties to help them find an outcome they can all be happy with. If you are looking for a faster, cheaper, and more effective resolution, contact us at Venn Mediation. We are based in New York but are experts in online mediation and can work with people anywhere. Disputes can be difficult, but dispute resolution doesn’t have to be. We would love to help.

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