Sometimes one party to a dispute contacts me to pursue mediation, fully convinced that the mediation process is the right way to resolve a conflict as effectively as possible. At times, another party to that dispute is reluctant to pursue mediation and asks me to serve as an arbitrator.
Most people have had little or no experience with either process. Some have heard a little about divorce mediation but have never heard about mediation used in any other context. When we discuss the differences in these conflict resolution processes, the distinction that is often the most important is the question of control.
In arbitration, the parties ask the arbitrator, within limits that they set out and agree to, to resolve their case for them. The arbitrator is then in control. In mediation, the parties work with the mediator’s help to decide their case. The parties are always in control of their own dispute.