Mediation works wonderfully when the parties are reasonable, unemotional, and trustworthy.
But how often have you been in conflict with someone who was reasonable, unemotional, and trustworthy? And, when you were – you probably didn’t need a third party to help you resolve the matter.
Successful mediation doesn’t require that the parties trust one another, or even that the other side is going to start out reasonable.
Even complicated and difficult disputes can be resolved if the parties are given the opportunity and the right circumstances. Most conflicts can be settled given an established procedure, a trained mediator to keep everyone within bounds, and participants committed to the attempt.
Mediation works because the neutral third party is trained to guide the parties through an established process despite -- or in spite of -- their mistrust of the other side or their emotional connection to the issues. The mediator uses the process, and the parties' commitment to it, to help focus the discussion on the goal of resolution.
Participants don’t need to worry about their negotiation skills either – the trained mediator and the mediation process itself will guide and protect the novice participants. But even the experienced negotiator benefits from the presence of a neutral third party intermediary
in the process.
Mediation works not because the parties are poised to settle before they arrive at the session. It works because the mediator uses skills and techniques to move the parties towards rationality and cooperation. All that is required is that the parties commit to the idea of mediation as a problem solving mechanism. In the hands of a skilled mediator, that's all that is needed in most cases!