Why Mediate When You Can Just Negotiate? Several Reasons.

Why mediate when you can just negotiate? After all, what differentiates mediation from negotiation?

While people sometimes refer to mediation as negotiation on steroids, the processes are not identical. In negotiation, two or more parties to a dispute discuss possible resolutions on their own or through lawyers. In mediation, however, parties use a neutral third party, the mediator, to help guide the conversation and keep it on track. The conversation may look like a facilitated discussion that takes place on the phone, via Skype or other video service or in face-to-face conversations. On the other hand, particularly in business mediation, the conversation often involves the parties sitting in separate rooms, while the mediator conveys messages between them that he or she helps frame in private discussions. The net result is the same: the parties decide on their own outcome, rather than having an arbitrator or judge decides for them.

Mediation has become a popular way to address both business disputes in Massachusetts and family disputes in Massachusetts for a handful of reasons, including:

• Voluntary participation so parties are in control of the outcome
• Fair and equal opportunity for all stakeholders to share their concerns and perspectives
• Help from an unbiased individual who can craft a structure for the meetings that makes a successful outcome more likely
• In family matters, the sharing of all relevant information related to resolving the dispute; and in business matters, the sharing of relevant information in a controlled setting if the parties determine it makes sense
• A confidential setting, process and outcome
• Depending on the particular mediation process, an opportunity for each side to reality-test its position and that of the other in the eyes of a neutral third party
• If there is a succesful resolution, it is one that must be mutually acceptable

In the real world, most people negotiate first. It is not always successful. Sometimes it can even exacerbate the conflict. People then turn to a mediator. The timing of mediation is key, but when people are ready to reach a resolution adding a mediator to the mix can help move a conflict out of gridlock and into meaningful conversation. The additional support offered by a third party neutral sometimes makes the difference.