Sunday, March 04, 2007

Mediation Styles for Participants to Consider

Mediators acquire many useful tools in learning to put their natural peacemaking and collaboration skills to good use in the field of mediation. One of the tools is the choice of style.

Although there are numerous mediation styles, there are three main ones which most mediators employ, and which many attorneys familiar with mediation are aware of. The three main styles are: Evaluative, Facilitative and Transformative. Each style is employed in different types of disputes and with different types of disputants and most mediators take skills from each of these main styles in each mediation to accomplish various goals in each individual mediation.

Many authors of mediation technique discuss these styles in depth and I will not do that here. I will just provide a brief, broad sketch of each style so that mediation participants, who are unfamiliar with particular mediation styles, can take this basic information and think about what might make the most sense for their own disputes or relationships and to discuss in more detail with their potential mediators.

In "Evaluative Mediation," the mediator hears the cases presented by each side and, without actually making decisions as to who is right or wrong, evaluates the merits of the case, evaluates the likelihood of success for all parties to the dispute if the case has to go to trial, and helps all sides get a better reality test of what the alternative to settlement will be. Evaluative mediators often have backgrounds as trial attorneys or judges and use the skills developed in those arenas to give very useful information to parties who are mediating a case that might otherwise go to trial.

In "Facilitative Mediation," the mediator hears the cases presented by each side and asks questions to get to underlying interests which may not be apparent from the surface disputes. The mediator elicits information as well as creative ideas for resolution from the parties themselves, but focuses on resolving just the dispute at hand. The focus here is on meeting the needs and interests of all parties in a way that results in a win-win for everyone instead of a winning side and a losing side.

In "Transformative Mediation," the focus is on transforming the relationship of the parties or their ability to communicate in a productive manner instead of just solving the immediate dispute. This mediation style is extremely useful in disputes in which there is a continuing relationship between the parties and mediation is being used to solve not just the current dispute but to help prevent future disputes since the parties either have a continuing business relationship or they have children together and must find a way to cooperate in a meaningful way.

This is a broad overview of these three main mediation styles. As a participant to mediation, you may wish to think about how each of these styles may benefit you. You may also see how a little of each of these styles might be even more beneficial. You can discuss these styles and what you wish to accomplish in mediation with your own prospective mediators or in pre-mediation conferences with a chosen mediator. Best of luck to you!

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