Mediation 101

Interest-based mediation, in a nutshell, is all about helping the disputing parties to set aside their differences and distrust, which, of course, is easier said than done. Once you can start bringing the parties together based upon the values they share, their common interests, this is the first step towards re-establishing some level of trust and, hopefully, a level of at least minimal trust – even if only happening through baby steps over what might not otherwise seem to be important or even relevant to the issues that divide them.

One example is a separated or divorced couple with children. Set aside the relationship they once had and set out to re-define them into at least  minimally cooperative co-parenting roles. With few-to-no exceptions, both the mother and father can and will agree that they want what will be best for their children. Once you have successfully shifted their focus from one another to the children, you can start building agreement(s).

Again, focus should be on the shared values and common interests that you can identify – or about which you might already have some knowledge. One does not have to be a professional mediator to do this, but you must strive to be as objective and even-handed as possible so that neither party perceives that you have taken sides. Easier said than done, but, nevertheless, this basic concept can be applied in family, neighbor, workplace or any of a variety of other settings. Of course, the disputing parties must be willing and motivated towards ending the conflict.