What exactly is mediation (Part I)?

People have used mediation to resolve conflicts for as long as we have found ourselves embroiled in conflicts, but there is still some confusion about exactly what the process is.

We’ll start with what mediation is not. Mediation is not the same as meditation — though both endeavors can lead to peace of mind.

Mediation is also not the same as arbitration, even though both processes involve a neutral third party. Parties to a conflict may be required by contract to pursue arbitration in lieu of litigation if a dispute arises or they may choose, after a dispute has arisen, to pursue arbitration. An arbitrator, unlike a mediator, acts as a private judge and imposes a decision on parties. After the parties, or their attorneys, put on their evidence in a hearing, a single arbitrator or a panel issues an award that decides the case. Typically, the decision is binding and possibilities to overturn the award are limited.

Depending on the circumstances, meditation and arbitration can both serve useful purposes. In other situations, mediation is the conflict resolution process with just the right fit.

More on that in Part II.

Posted in Basics of Mediation and Conflict, Monday, April 23rd, 2007

  • Categories