Here’s a series of diagrams I developed to describe how you know when you’re in a mediation and when you’re not, and how you know when you’re mediating and when you’re not.
I developed these diagrams to explain mediation to my clients and to tertiary students. I’m often asked for them, so here they are.
Mediation is not …
Mediation is not compromising on your preferred outcome.
When your preferred outcome is to go in another direction from another person’s preferred outcome there is often conflict. How acceptable is the other person’s preferred outcome to you?
Their preferred outcome may be low in acceptability to you. Your preferred outcome may be low in acceptability to the other person. You may each be saying ‘My way or the highway.’
If a settlement is what you need, you may have to give in and the other person may have to give in. Settlement comes from each of you accepting an outcome less than your preferred outcome.
An efficient, competitive settlement will be along the limit of settlement which means that both you and the other will have given in to some extent. An inefficient settlement will be in the area of potential settlement which means that you and the other person will have given in more than you needed to.
This is a settlement conference which is sometimes mistaken for mediation.
There is another way.
Mediation is …
Mediation is reaching a creative agreement on what is important to each of you
When what is important to you seems different from what is important to the other person there is often disagreement. When a neutral person facilitates an even handed approach to exploring and explaining what is important to each of you, you are on the way to mediation.
A creative, cooperative agreement will be reached in the area of mediated agreement which means that you and the other person have designed an agreement that adds value to the competitive agreement above. The sky is the limit.
An efficient, cooperative agreement will be along the line of likely settlement, which means that both you and the other person have reached an agreement which meets maximum criteria for what is important to each of you. Compare the outcome of mediation in this diagram with settlement conference above.
The difference between these approaches is in the questions that are asked throughout. In a settlement conference, the persistent questions will be ‘What is your preferred outcome?’ and ‘How much will you compromise?’. The primary question of a mediation will be ‘What is important to you?’
You have a choice between competition and cooperation and the results that flow from each.