Mediation can be a forum for positive change in complex relationship disputes (business, family, and contract). I think the description Rikk Larsen gives about a severe parent-teenager relationship struggle exemplifies the feelings in many relationship disputes.

“Invariably the session begins with a sullen teenager sitting defiantly, arms crossed, head down, at the edge of the space allotted for the session….Barbed accusations fly back and forth. Each side has heard the litany hundreds of times and barely listens to the other as hot buttons are pushed. The teen is usually in denial about the power of the probation officer and the consequences of an impending court hearing. The parent(s) have come to this humiliating point in desperation having only grudgingly given up control to the court system.”

Up until this point the parties haven’t exhausted the blame game, with each party wallowing in a pool of negative power.
At some point, however, the parties get tired of fighting. At this point, several factors make mediation highly effective in bringing parties to the point where they can achieve peace.

1. The LONG TERM CONNECTION parties share creates a common goal of harmony.

2. The SPACE mediators create through use of a careful process, listening techniques and healing communication gives parties a rare chance to work out their own solution.

3. The BREVITY of mediation, through short, intense and forward looking sessions, helps parties avoid the mire of old issues dragging them back down.

4. The FREE CHOICE of participation presents a rare opportunity for parties to feel control and ownership over the dispute.

5. The NEUTRAL, non-judgmental and validating approach a mediator uses affects good communication.

Mediation is not appropriate for every dispute. When long term relationships exist and timing is right, however, the mediation process is undoubtedly the most efficient and productive way to find resolution to a conflict.

I am currently working on my mediation certification through the Whatcom County Dispute Resolution Center. Please contact me if you are interested in using mediation to resolve a dispute you are experiencing.

1 Larsen, Rikk. “Tipping Points - Reasons Why Mediation Works in Complex Family Disputes” September, 2003