Updated: May 5, 2021
Your first experience with someone you considered a mediator probably began in your family unit with a parent or guardian. This is where we experience our first conflicts and learn how to, or how not to resolve them. As you grew and moved out in the world, those "mediators" probably showed up as peers, school counselors, therapists, or human resources people at your job. If the conflicts grew difficult enough you may have experienced intervention by a school principal, your boss, the police, or a Judge. While these people intervene, they are not mediators. Their sole job is to resolve disputes by telling you what to do. And let's face it they do resolve disputes. However, as well meaning and necessary as they are for some situations, a dictated solution is never as gratifying and enduring as one found by parties working together to find win-win solutions of their own.
After more than two decades experiencing nearly every job in the legal setting, including litigant, juror, practicing attorney, and adjudicator, I can assure you mediation is by far the better alternative. With rare exception, clients finish litigation feeling mentally, emotionally, and financially drained. And all of this takes month or even years of their life. What's worse is that they voluntarily pay a huge price to have someone else tell them what to do. As if all that weren't enough, here's the real irony Most courts require litigating parties to mediate before they can go to trial anyway! So why do so many people run straight to court before trying first to mediate?
I have pondered that question for awhile and here is what I've come up with. First, people are not aware of mediation as an option of first resort. This is actually strange, because most ancient societies had mediators, shaman, or sages, who parties used to help them resolve disputes. Today, we have become accustomed to having an issue arise and then working within the boundaries of the organizations we engage in to tell us how to handle it. Most people literally don't know that they can ask someone else to engage in mediation with them to resolve a dispute, before it gets out of control and lands them in court. A mediation session might be an hour session or it might take longer, but hardly ever will it come remotely close to the amount of time, money, or stress of litigation.
Second, as a culture, we have been trained to be litigious. We have become so diverse, culturally, politically, socio-economically, religiously, and even in age category that our familiarity with "the other" is missing. In spite of our instant communication and gratification with the advent of the internet and social media, we don't interact as much with each other. This is especially true after Covid. Let me give an example. If you lived in a small village or a close-knit community you would likely know most people in that community, and they would know you. This kind of familiarity cultivates a mutual identity and shared camaraderie as well as community accountability. This connectedness would likely result in less conflict because you see "the other" as yourself, and therefore you are more incentivized to resolve conflict in a mutually agreeable way. By contrast, in our current culture, we live mainly in big cities or urban areas where people may not speak to their neighbors on any regular basis, let alone know the name of the policeman or grocery store owner, etc. This disconnect results far to often in rapidly escalating conflict and someone saying "I'll see you in court."
Third, surprising but true, some people prefer to be told what to do. We might all know someone who is like this, or someone who will push an issue to the ends of the earth
to avoid being wrong. These personality types are why there will always be plenty of work for attorney's. Some people like to litigate. But the majority of us just want to address our conflicts as they arise, resolve them, and move on hopefully with a better understanding and mutually agreeable solution.
A true mediator facilitates the conversation around conflicts and empowers the parties to craft solutions together. Virtually everyone who willingly engages in good faith mediation emerges with an improved understanding of the conflict and a better perspective on the issues in dispute and, more importantly of the other party’s needs and interests. What's more, mediation results in resolution in more than 80% of cases where parties meaningfully participate. Even in extreme cases where agreements can't be reached, the parties almost always go away with a better understanding of each other and their issues, which makes for more efficient resolution in litigation. Put simply, there is no better first resort to conflict resolution than mediation. It's a faster, more affordable, and more fulfilling way to get to resolution. This is my passion and the reason for this article, as well as the creation and continued outreach of Blend Mediation. Share