Mediation can be helpful in resolving conflict, when two parties are looking to move forward. It is a process used increasingly in the fields of employment and family breakdown and can be a useful and creative alternative to formal or legal procedures.
"A confidential and voluntary process in which a neutral person helps people in dispute to explore and understand their differences so that they can find their own solution": mediation defined by ACAS, whose involvement in employment relations spans 35 years.
Mediation can be useful in situations where two or more people have adopted opposing and mutually exclusive positions, and where compromise appears impossible. It can create a safe space where differences and be explored, and any common ground identified, in a neutral and confidential setting. Mediation can give opposing parties a forum to speak and be heard, and to listen and hear. It creates an opportunity to clarify the real issues and to brainstorm solutions. Its focus is on the future, not the past: on assisting those in conflict to identify a way forward.
Mediation has been found to be successful in the great majority of cases; and in the minority of cases where agreement is not reached, simply engaging in the process usually has a beneficial effect on the relationship of the parties in dispute.
Mediation is a different discipline from counselling. Whilst engaging in mediation may have a therapeutic effect, its primary purpose is more often the resolution of conflict or the identifying of a compromise or agreed settlement in a dispute. Parties engaging in mediation need to feel sufficiently robust to state their case, and to listen to the views of the other party which may be difficult to hear. Though the mediator may use some skills familiar to those who have experienced counselling, including listening, empathising, and holding boundaries in a safe environment, the mediator's role is to ensure a fair process, rather than to enable personal development.
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