The Value(s) of Mediation

The Value(s) of Mediation

The Value(s) of Mediation

The key values of mediation (self determination, neutrality, confidentiality, safety, and quality) guide the practice of mediators and form the basis for us providing the highest quality service to our clients. Adherence to these core values helps mediators ensure that clients achieve the best possible outcomes.

By Ehsan Ali and Alnoor Maherali

Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party helps two or more people come to an agreement or resolve a disagreement. The role of the mediator is to help those people to identify their issues and to explore options for settlement or resolution. In doing so, people can achieve a better understanding of their own interests and the interests of the person they’re negotiating with. This greater understanding can often lead to the discovery of unforeseen, creative and durable outcomes that are mutually beneficial to the people involved. By turning opponents into partners, mediation can increase the size of the pie rather than simply dividing it up.

To help people resolve their conflicts and achieve better outcomes, most mediators adhere to a core set of values or principles that guide their actions. These fundamental concepts ensure the highest standards of service and provide an ethical framework for mediation professionals to follow. Here are the values we honor in our practice: 

Self-Determination: First and foremost, mediation is a voluntary process. The parties have to want to participate and are free to leave at any time if it is not working for them. Secondly, the parties are in control of the outcome. It is up to them to determine the issues up for discussion, identify their needs, and come up with potential solutions to address those needs. The mediator’s role is to provide structure to the process and facilitate an open discussion that helps the parties to better communicate with each other. Mediators do this without providing advice or suggestions and without forcing the discussion to any one outcome. If the parties do come to some kind of agreement (and sometimes that is an agreement to walk away), it will be an agreement that they are comfortable and hopefully happy with. 

Neutrality: As part of ensuring that parties are in control of the outcome, a mediator strives to be neutral and impartial in the process and does not take sides with either party. This does not mean that the mediator won’t necessarily identify with one side over the other. Nor will they always like the parties. Good mediators accept that they are human and that they have feelings about what they are seeing and hearing. But they also know that the process can only work if the parties feel safe and can trust their mediator to be fair. A mediator thus acknowledges any biases that may arise and aims to treat all parties equally and fairly. What the mediator is really trying to achieve is a sense of multi-partiality; that is, the mediator works for the best interests of every person at the table.

Confidentiality: In order for parties to feel free to candidly discuss their issues, concerns, and potential solutions, mediation is a confidential process. This means that while parties can take notes, they are not allowed to record the sessions. To confirm the commitment to confidentiality, both the parties and the mediator(s) sign confidentiality agreements before the mediation starts. Confidentiality agreements vary between mediators, but speaking broadly, mediation confidentiality agreements provide protection if the matter winds up in court. This helps better ensure that parties can speak candidly about the issues and work in good faith to achieve an agreement. Any exceptions are made clear prior to the parties giving their consent to participate in the mediation. 

Safety: Safety in the mediation sense refers to both physical security and emotional security. Physical security means ensuring that no party will bring harm to the other parties or themselves. Emotional security means that each party should feel comfortable to share and participate openly and honestly during the mediation. While self-determination and neutrality are critical to the mediation process, if at any point the mediator perceives threats to the safety of one or more parties, they must intervene in the most appropriate way possible. This includes asking questions about the feasibility of outcomes, checking-in on one or both parties, and could also mean taking further steps as needed. Meanwhile, a commitment to neutrality and ensuring a safe space for open discussion helps to encourage emotional security and ultimately a better mediation.

Quality: Quality in the mediation session involves bringing all these values, as well as knowledge, experience and skills, to bear throughout the session and for our clients. These factors help ensure that people are receiving the best service possible. For the mediator, this requires a dedication to procedural fairness, due diligence and skill development. It also requires a strong emotional discipline to preserve neutrality and self-determination. A good mediator knows that providing the best process possible includes being prepared for the session(s), being in the right state of mind, asking the right questions, and maintaining multi-partiality at all times. Strong mediators assist parties in exploring potential outcomes to help determine if those outcomes are achievable and durable. And they know that they must remove themselves if they feel they are not working in their clients’ best interests.

At Venn Mediation, we strive to adhere to these core principles and have seen firsthand how they can help people resolve their disputes, quickly and effectively. From situations that are in their initial stages to those already in the legal process, Venn assists our clients to find settlement terms and deals that work for them. If you or someone you know is stuck in conflict, consider reaching out to Venn Mediation. We are based in New York but are experienced 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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