The meaning of “mediation”

Until they have a specific reason to find out exactly what mediation means, many people have only a vague idea about it. Sometimes, people think that a mediator can force the parties into a settlement, and that perception can be more than enough reason to steer clear of mediation.

The headline of a recent article in the UK Financial Times ( caught my eye, precisely because — in the mediation work that I do — it is patently impossible. The headline read: “Financial mediator to award higher sums.” The article began with this sentence:   “The Financial Ombudsman, which mediates between warring businesses and clients, will be able to force banks, insurers and investment groups to pay up to £50,000 more in compensation next year.”

Clearly the role of a “mediator” has a different meaning in the context discussed in the article than the common meaning in this country. A mediator does not make an “award” nor “force” payments.  It’s a very important point, one that bears repeating.

Posted in Basics of Mediation and Conflict, Conflict Resolution in the News, Sunday, May 29th, 2011

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