A review of the stages of the mediation process; a method to achieve mutual understanding.
We understand by mediation a method of conflict resolution whose main objective is to improve the relationships between the people involved.
In this article we will talk about the stages of mediation, and what processes take place in them.
What is mediation?
Mediation, as a method of conflict management and resolution, has been and is a constant practice in our communities, societies and cultures. It is an effective tool used to negotiate between opposing parties, in the presence of a neutral third party, whose role is to facilitate communication and the search for solutions.
The purpose of mediation is not to determine who is right or wrong when there is a conflict, but to help resolve it. The key to mediation is to give the opportunity and the leading role to each of the parties so that they can manage and reach an effective resolution of the conflict. The objective, therefore, is not only to reach an agreement, but how it works and what means the parties use to achieve it.
Ultimately, mediation is an attempt to help people communicate and understand each other in a different way, with the intention of broadening their perception of the problem. Being able to understand how the problem affects or how the other person feels is essential, regardless of whether or not it is possible to reach concrete agreements.
For a mediation process to be effective from the beginning, the participation of the parties must be voluntary and the person who acts as mediator must be properly trained and trained.
The figure of the mediator
The mediator is the key figure in mediation and is the person who contributes to build trust between the parties and throughout the process.
It is the figure of the mediator who helps the parties in conflict to interact with each other, so that they understand each other and can get to work together, in a completely different way than they had been doing up to that moment. Its mission is, essentially, to propose procedures for finding solutions.
In order to carry out the task of mediation, it is necessary to have a series of qualities, such as being objective and being empathetic, to get an idea of the position of both parties; or be impartial and gain the trust of both, so that the mediator abstracts from his personal opinions and directs the resolution of the conflict based on the needs of the parties and not his own.
Phases or stages of mediation
The mediation process must include a series of stages that every mediator and every party in conflict must go through.
There are two great different phases; a first interview with each of the parties involved in the conflict; and a second phase, once both parties agree to proceed with mediation, in which they are already present, communicate and conflict resolution is started.
1. Premediation phase
The objective of this first phase of mediation, which consists of interviewing the parties, is to obtain information about the conflict, give them confidence, and allow a space for relief, so that the ground can be paved for a final meeting.
The rest of the stages of this phase would be the same as in the mediation phase: the presentation or framing, the description of what happened, the clarification of the problem, the search for solutions and, finally, the agreement. In this case, the final agreement is that the person agrees to participate in the next phase of the mediation.
2. Meeting or mediation phase
The meeting or mediation phase is the most important stage of the entire process, since it is in this phase that the parties present the problem and describe what happened, in order to clarify the conflict and seek solutions.
Let’s see what are the stages included in the meeting or mediation phase:
2.1. Presentation or framing
In presenting or framing, the goal is to build trust in the mediation process. The mediator is in charge of explaining how it will be developed (objectives, expectations, role of the mediator and the parties in conflict, etc.), of remembering the importance of confidentiality and their collaboration, in addition to clarifying the basic rules of participation.
This first phase is particularly convenient to inform the parties that good communication requires minimum requirements (that there are no interruptions, that they make an effort to understand each other, that there is adequate communication, etc.), so that if these are met, It will facilitate a faster and more efficient search for solutions, in the same way that if they do not, the situation is very likely to get worse.
Starting the meeting by reminding the parties of what mediation consists of is important, since; On the one hand, we point out to them that to solve a problem another way of interacting is necessary, and that the figure of the mediator is there to facilitate communication, so that they can resolve the conflict; and on the other hand, that the mediator will serve as a model of interaction, understanding that what is relevant is not so much the content of what is said, but rather the tone and form of the speech.
2.2. Description of what happened by the parties in conflict
In this second stage of the mediation phase, each of the parties will be able to present their version of the conflict and will have the opportunity to express what they think and how they feel about it.
This moment is ideal for each of them to perceive that they are listened to and can vent. Hence, it is important for the mediator to create a relaxed atmosphere and, above all, to manage the exchange of messages.
The mediator must ensure that the parties respect the turn of the intervention, trying to make an active listening and empathize each one of them with the opposing party. It should also help to bring the most relevant issues of the conflict to the table (without making value judgments or advice), paying attention to both the content and the relationship between the parties.
2.3. Clarification of the problem
In this mediation phase, the figure of the mediator is key, since it seeks to identify what the conflict consists of in order to try to reach a consensus on the most important issues for both parties. Mutual agreement on the issues to be discussed must be ensured, so that progress can be made towards a conflict resolution.
In addition, the mediator will have to achieve a consensual version of the problem, mainly exploring the interests that underlie the positions of each one and directing the dialogue in terms of interests (a key point to be able to adequately resolve the conflict).
This stage is highly relevant, since thanks to the questions asked by the mediator and the parties, they will be aware that there are various points of view or approaches to the same problem, thus facilitating the resolution of the conflict.
Likewise, and as we have pointed out previously, if each party presents its interests first and then its positions, it will be easier for the opposite party to be receptive to them.
Ultimately, the objective of this phase is: to identify the interests, needs and feelings of both parties; understand the other’s position empathically; and try to highlight the common elements in the perception of the conflict, highlighting the importance for both parties to reach an agreement.
2.4. Search for solutions
In this phase the most relevant issues are discussed and possible ways of solution and meeting are sought. Mediators must facilitate creativity in the search for ideas or solutions (through techniques such as brainstorming, creative visualization, etc.), analyzing what each party is willing to do and what it asks of the other party, request that they assess each of the possible solutions and request their agreement with each of the proposals.
In this phase it is very important that adequate communication skills are managed. At this stage of the mediation process, each party will visualize the fact that the opposing person, who until that moment was his adversary, has become an ally with whom he can communicate correctly and has made concessions, which will facilitate that the party concerned also modify its behavior in order to maintain the new situation that benefits everyone.
Finally, in this last stage of mediation, which is the agreement phase, the mediator must help the parties evaluate the proposals, as well as their pros and cons, until they can decide on one of them. Likewise, it must help them to clearly define the agreement, seeking that it is balanced, realistic, concrete, possible and clear, accepted by all, assessable and that it remains in writing.
The parties have to commit to comply with what they have agreed and must sign it. The mediator should be satisfied if the parties have been able to establish communication, even if they have not finally been able to reach concrete agreements or, for some reason, have not wanted to put it in writing with their signature.
Even on occasions when agreement has been impossible, mediation will have served as training to implement other types of communication skills, as well as to improve the relationship between people.
Rules in a mediation process
During a mediation it is necessary to follow a series of basic rules for the process to run normally.
Let’s see 10 rules that all mediation must comply with :
The process must be voluntary on both sides.
There must be total and strict confidentiality.
The mediator must not judge or make decisions, and must always be neutral and impartial.
By guaranteeing impartiality, the possibility is ensured for all parties to express themselves with the same time and the same opportunities.
During the mediation process, each party must be respectful, must not interrupt themselves or display aggressive behavior.
The agreements must come exclusively from the parties in conflict, and the figure of the mediator is only there to help improve communication and seek meeting points.
The mediator reserves the right to suspend the meetings of the mediation process due to any inappropriate behavior on the part of any of the parties.
The mediation process can be terminated if the mediated parties are unable to reach agreements and the dialogue is found to be ineffective.
The mediator will monitor the fulfillment of the possible commitments and agreements reached by the parties.
The mediation process may be terminated if it is considered that it has been delayed due to irresponsible conduct by one of the parties in conflict.
Haynes, JM (2012). Fundamentals of family mediation: A Practical Manual for mediators México CF: Gaia Ediciones