Talking to a mediator

Disputes arise for all sorts of reasons. Most people are shocked to find themselves in dispute. Once a dispute begins it can be very difficult to resolve without help.

By talking to an independent mediator people in dispute get the opportunity to try to resolve a problem.

The mediator:

  • listens to what you have to say and what you have been through
  • helps you to understand your options and the consequences of each action
  • tries to stop the problem from escalating or getting worse
  • works with all parties to the dispute to keep balance and proportion
  • may be able to get you talking again if all communication has ceased
  • tries to restore on-going relationships after the dispute has settled
  • works towards agreements that all parties can live with
  • respects that what you say is confidential.

The Mediator does not reveal what you say to any external third party even if they are your landlord or employer or paying for the mediation. If you have been referred, we do give updates to the referrer on whether the parties wish to mediate and if agreements have been reached but not the details.

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Things you might want to try yourself

Often, the simplest and most effective way to resolve a dispute is to speak to the other person face to face and with a friendly tone and manner. People are often unaware that their behaviour is having an impact on others and most are receptive if approached in a respectful and positive way.

If you don’t care what happens to any person you are in conflict with or you want them to be hurt, damaged or destroyed, how can they trust you?

Can they intelligently do anything but defend themselves against you, even if it means perpetuating the conflict?

Sometimes, as unfair as it might seem, the very thing you want the other person to do (such as turning the music down) relies entirely on their goodwill and telling someone off is less likely to get the outcome you want.

Preparation – things to consider before approaching the other person

  • Consider and reflect on what you want to say beforehand. Keep it simple.
  • Be clear about exactly what the problem is – have an example in mind – think about how it affects you.
  • Think about the outcome you would like and how that might impact the other person. Is it reasonable and proportionate?
  • Imagine how you would like to be approached and spoken to. It may be helpful to practice this with a friend or relative.
  • Avoid words that sound accusatory or blaming. The other person may have little or no idea that what they are doing has any impact on you or the extent of how you feel.
  • Prepare yourself to listen to the other person. Imagine how you would like to be heard. Practice hearing something you find inflammatory and responding calmly.
  • Ask a friend to let you ‘vent’ or ‘offload’ before you meet the other person. Be particular in asking them not to give an opinion but to simply listen and empathise. And ask the same friend or a different friend to be there afterwards so you can talk about how it went.
  • Consider how long you have waited to deal with the problem. Your frustration may be partly because you didn’t say something sooner. Consider how the other person might react to your tone of voice.

Talking to the other person

  • Speaking face to face is probably the best approach so you can work towards a solution. Remember that they might not be expecting you so their initial reaction may be embarrassment or shock. If you notice the person is taken aback, it might be better just to agree another time to talk about it.
  • You may prefer to write a letter or send an email or text but the meaning or tone of words can easily be misunderstood. On the other hand, a polite note may give them time to reflect on a response especially if you explain that this is your reason for writing.
  • Choose your time. Choose a time when you will both have time to talk. When you are both rushing out may not be the best time, nor late a night, nor when you are feeling most frustrated about the issue.
  • Whatever approach you choose, remember that a problem takes time to build up. It is rarely possible to really solve a problem in one conversation. Even if you think it is unfair, problems take time and goodwill on all sides to resolve.
  • Stay calm. Even if you do not like or agree with the way the other person responds to you, try to stay calm. Getting angry will not help.
  • Before you begin with the problem, clearly state that your intention is to find a workable solution for both of you.
  • Explain exactly what the problem is, and how it affects you. e.g.

“When you play your music loud, my children cannot get to sleep”

“When you disclosed what I said to our manager, I lost trust in any confidentiality between us”

  • Listen to what the other person has to say. Think about what they are saying, and their point of view. Better results can be achieved if both sides understand the other person’s situation.
  • Stick to the issue in hand. Try not to get side tracked onto other issues. Try not to bring up incidents from the past.
  • Be positive. Try to think of solutions to the problem that might satisfy you both. The other person is not likely to be responsive if you are simply giving them an order to change their behaviour without any consideration for their situation.
  • If the other person is not positive or not responsive, you may be better to ask if you can both think about the problem and have another meeting. Many people do not respond well when they feel under pressure. Giving them time to ‘sleep on it’ may produce a better response.
  • It is also helpful to come up with ideas and solutions which can be discussed as possibilities.

“Would it be ok for you if we agree a level at which you can play your music that does not disturb me?”

“Could we agree on what can be kept confidential and what you feel you would need to report on”

If you sense any escalation on either side, politely and firmly end the conversation and leave:

“Okay, I can see this is upsetting you and that is not my intention. My intention is only to sort something out. Let’s leave it for now and maybe we can address it another time.”

“I didn’t expect that we would find it difficult to discuss this, so let’s leave it for now and perhaps we can pick this up when we’ve both had time to reflect”

  • Do not end the meeting with any tone of hostility.

Phrases that might help

“Would you be willing to….”

“Is this a good time to talk?”

“I would like to discuss a sensitive issue”

“Can you help me with this problem?”

Phrases to avoid

“Stop doing this”

“You should….”

“You have to….”

“You are selfish”

If you cannot imagine remaining calm or listening to the other person, if just thinking about the problem or the person sets you off or if you can only imagine the other person as bad or wrong, you probably need a mediator.

The Mediation Process

Before the parties meet

Stage one:

Individual contact with the parties

Key tasks

  • introductions
  • finding out about the situation
  • acknowledging feelings
  • building rapport
  • explaining what mediation is about and the role of the mediator
  • seeking agreement to continue with mediation
  • exploring initial ideas of what the parties wants
  • establishing how confidentiality will work
  • deciding on next course of action

Stage two:

Further contact with the parties

Key tasks

  • Checking in to see how things are
  • Maintaining contact
  • Finding out state of readiness to meet face to face
  • Deciding on next course of action

Stage three:

Preparing to work on the dispute

Key tasks

  • Identifying the best way – to continue mediating or not
  • Preparing the parties
  • Establishing commitment from the parties
  • Mediators’ preparation
  • Preparing the venue
  • The meeting

Stage four:

Setting the scene – hearing the issues

Key tasks

  • Welcomes and introductions
  • Establishing communication groundrules
  • Explaining and agreeing the process
  • Providing uninterrupted time for each party
  • Managing early conflict
  • Mediators’ summary to disputants
  • Agreeing the agenda

Stage five:

Exploring the issues

Key tasks

  • Sorting the issues with the parties
  • Encouraging communication
  • Checking understanding and clarifying assumptions
  • Identifying concerns about the issues
  • Acknowledging and moving on from differences
  • Maintaining a safe environment
  • Maintaining or renegotiating the agenda
  • Changing focus from the past to the future
  • Summarising areas of consensus and disagreement

Stage six:

Building agreements

Key tasks

  • Generating options and highlighting offers
  • Evaluating options
  • Encouraging problem-solving
  • Noting conciliatory gestures
  • Constructing agreements
  • Checking and recording agreements
  • Creating fall-back arrangements
  • Identifying what next if no agreement reached

Stage seven:

Closure and follow-up

Key tasks

  • Closing the session
  • Arranging follow-up

We would love to answer your questions, hear your experiences, talk more about our work and explore opportunities

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