Mediation is a process through which someone who has special training to help people in conflict communication walks decision makers/stakeholders through a guided discussion process. The mediator has no interest in the outcome of the disagreement; instead, his/her focus is on staying true to the discussion framework and making sure that each person involved feels safe, has an opportunity to be heard, and hears the perspective(s) of the other person/people involved.
People or small groups may chose mediation to discuss interpersonal disagreements, miscommunications, misconceptions that led to hurt feelings, or simply a negative association of another person or group that overshadows social, work, or family interactions and prevents “normal” interaction without tension and unease but doesn’t have an easily identified source.
Mediation usually starts with each person sharing a brief overview of the problem at hand from his/her perspective. In turn, the mediator summarizes the information shared so that the other person/people are able to process what has been shared with less focus on the original speaker and his/her feelings toward that person. Through guided conversation and asking open-ended questions, a mediator’s goal is to find any shared goals or commonalities from which the people in dispute can build upon to end the conflict. Shared goals are sometimes as simple as not wishing to have further interaction with the other person.
Once shared goals or commonalities are identified, the mediator will ask participants to draft a list of possible solutions. The mediator will then guide the people in conflict through evaluation of how well each of those potential solutions can provide lasting relief from the conflict, if they are practical, and if everyone involved is in agreement that he/she is willing to implement them.