Conflicts happen. It’s an inevitable part of human interaction, be it in personal relationships, the workplace, business or community. Traditionally, when conflicts are addressed, an adversarial approach is used, be it in a labour/ workplace dispute, a separating couple, a community conflict or a dispute over a business deal. Somebody wins and somebody loses. Costs are considerable. It is based on the principle that someone is right and someone else is wrong.
Mediation takes a different approach. It is not about attributing blame. It seeks to work in a structured manner with the disputing parties to reach an agreement that both can live with.
While not every conflict is suitable for resolution through mediation, there are some clear advantages to the process. It is quicker, non-confrontational and cheaper than the formal legal route. Its voluntary, confidential and binding in that the parties involved sign a legal agreement to mediate document in advance. The agreement to mediate is binding but the Mediated Agreement is only binding if that is what parties wish. If agreement is reached, both parties then sign a mediated agreement document.
Mediation works towards a win-win situation. However, it is not a panacea, there are no guarantees, and parties may still need to get further professional advice eg legal, financial etc. But given the stress involved in the adversarial legal approach, the negative publicity, the time required, the costs and the consequences of ‘losing’ there is a role for mediation, an alternative to litigation. A successful mediation facilitates the parties in conflict to identify their own solutions to the problems, the solution is not imposed. The mediator role is to facilitate the process – not to instruct or advise.
Recently Minister Francis Fitzgerald has published the Mediation Bill, it will require further debate and refinement before final enactment. This will put mediation on a sounder footing, providing it with formal recognition and regulating its practice.
Member Mediators Institute of Ireland.
See www.themii.ie for more information.