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When is Mediation Appropriate?

In order for the mediation process to function effectively, the parties must communicate openly and honestly.

A case is usually appropriate for mediation when relationships are strained but must continue. Poor communication is often apparent and a skilled neutral third party is needed to facilitate communication. The intervention of a third party is likely to change the dynamics of the interaction of the disputants. And, the parties are often interested in retaining control of the outcome.

Mediation may be appropriate when:

  • Parties are having difficulties resolving the dispute because of lack of conflict resolution skills or because of resistance to confronting, or being confronted by, the other party. The mediation can help by clarifying productive steps for problem solving and by providing a neutral, non-threatening environment for discussion.
  • There are strong psychological or relationship barriers to negotiating a resolution. Mediators can play an intermediary and conciliatory role between the parties. Mediators are trained to handle emotional barriers to settlement, problems of misperception, or poor communication.
  • Parties would be otherwise unwilling to meet face-to-face to discuss the dispute.
  • The preservation of a working relationship is important. Many conflicts develop in the context of an ongoing relationship. Amutual agreement to a dispute, in which the parties maintain control of the outcome and "own" the decision, is always preferable to a decision imposed by a third party. The mediation process frequently repairs or builds new working relationships that are critical to the success of ongoing work.