Sometimes despite your best efforts you can’t get to the finish line. That may be because the other party is using high pressure tactics and you don’t know how to respond. It may be because you are having trouble presenting your position. It is also possible that one of you has miscalulated the ‘zone for a possible agreement or [‘ZOPA’]. On a scale of 1 to 10, if one side’s best offer is 7 and the other’s is 2, it’s possible that either or both of you have miscalculated the ZOPA. You need to reach a compromise. But that doesn’t mean meeting half-way. And that’s because both sides may not have equal resources. One side may be more powerful. The end game is always about satisfactory compromise, never ‘winner take all’.
Mediators are independent and neutral. Unlike lawyers, they work with all sides in a conflict. A skilled mediator knows how to facilitate negotiation. The principles of effective negotiation I just told you about apply. Mediation is an exercise in facilitated negotiation. Mediators know what questions to ask to move opposite sides toward middle ground. And mediation is all about reaching compromise. That’s why you need a skilled mediator who is able to guide all sides to a ‘win-win’ that meets as many of their reasonable needs as possible. Successful mediations happen when everyone values a ‘fair result’ over being ‘right’. Being ‘right’ often lands people in court. And that’s not where anyone needs to be.
Because mediation seeks a fair deal for everyone, it is a process of facilitated discussion. As with negotiation, the road map from where you are to where you want to go requires imagination. The mediator’s job is to encourage both sides to imagine a deal that works. In order to get started you will need to chose a mediator and all sides will be asked to sign a mediation agreement naming the mediator, setting out his responsibilities, and providing for payment.
If you can’t negotiate a fair, workable deal on your own, let me use my training and experience as a mediator to get that deal for you.