Everyone would love to live in a world of peace. Well, almost. But you and I know that it’s not going to happen. Until the time that human beings are the wired the way they are today, they are going to find some reason in some part of the world, to go to war about just something or the other. As much as we sometimes hate it, the world is full of issues that elicit contradictory viewpoints, conflicting opinions, and, well, disputes. In a way, diversity in thought and viewpoints makes the world a better place too. As mediators, we appreciate this more than just about anyone else. Our job is to listen, understand, educate, develop, and eventually, to empower people to come to a consensus about the best ideas to resolve their situation.
Mediation works very well in almost all disputes. Yet its not well understood by many in the broader community. Most people turn to court, often pre-maturely. The court system is certainly in place to protect people and ensure justice. But it has its limitations and there are other avenues which could be more appropriate in certain situations, especially in early stages of a dispute. Here are 10 reasons that we believe begin to capture the attractiveness of the mediation option, in no specific order.
- Legal costs: People often feel that legal costs (expert witnesses, court costs and stenographer,attorney fees, private investigator fees, Etc.) are a deterrent. For some these expenses may tilt the law in favor of those that have the will to pay for these fees upfront hoping to win a case and get reimbursed for their years of time and expenses. Not everyone has that risk-taking mentality. Sometimes this the first reason why mediation should be considered prior to resorting to a lawsuit.
- Best Ideas Win: In a court-room, it’s always the Plaintiff vs the Defendant – Me vs You. Not all disputes are of that nature. Think about the numerous discussions that you’ve been in that are on the verge of escalating into an argument, but you think of a clever solution that’s acceptable to both and then present it in a way that just works. That’s the kind of approach can work in mediation when the parties cannot find that middle ground themselves. This process is often not as simple and straightforward as it may seem. It involves training, skills and educating the parties about what is truly at stake, the consequences, providing the resources, and managing diverse, difficult and often times contradictory opinions (no ‘yes men,’ allowed). In the end, effective mediation lets the parties decide for themselves. Such tools are not always available to individuals and in difficult cases it is wise to include professionals in the problem identification, planning and decision making processes. When used correctly, these tools can result in best ideas win situations where parties “see it, get it, and do it. Mediators develop solutions and present them in a manner that allows the parties to appreciate the various perspectives, provides room for legal and personal issues to be resolved and let the best ideas win.
- It’s always personal: Disputes are always personal, yet courts try to rule emotion and sentiment out of the picture and make judgments based on ‘alleged’ facts alone. That approach is of course necessary and works well to try to keep our system of law impartial and logical. However, human beings are emotional by nature, almost as much as we are logical, if not more. Mediators care about what’s important to you.
- Facts, Lies and Distortions : Never forget that one persons obvious ‘facts and truths ‘ are another person’s fabricated ‘lies and distortions.’
- Legal Guesswork : No one really knows what happened, except you and the the side. Maybe. Even well intentioned people often really Mis-remember events. Have you ever made a mistake about something you really thought happened in one way or another?Never mind those people who ‘intentionally mis-remember.’ Even good people can truly even ‘know or honestly think this is exactly what happened” and be completely wrong. This is why “eye witness accounts” which are often times some of the most powerful arguments in court are still often unreliable.
- May the best lawyer Win: In court that is just sometimes what happens, that’s the way it is. Who want to take that chance when you have a fair story to tell or the ‘facts’ on your side? The other side’s lawyer may just be better, smarter or know the system in a way that is more appealing to the decision- makers.
- Judges and Juries are Human: Sometimes you are so involved in a conflict you are just sure that the judge and jury will see it you way. The fact is: They often don’t .
- 50% of the time you lose. It is amazing that 50% of the time some one is wrong and the other side just wins in court. In truth those are not really good odds . You just take your chances.
- Timing: Mediation is often the most effective when used on a timely basis. In the early stages of a disputes, it can require just one session to arrive an agreeable consensus. For instance, in some cases of sexual harassment, all that a complainant asks for is for the behavior to stop. In family and divorce cases, it can reduce the destruction and animosity to the parties and the family that can go on for years. In business cases ,it can help stop wasting the time and money and allow you to refocus on your goals and what is really important. And in most cases, mediation is able to establish an unbiased, third-party communication channel at just the right time before a simple disagreement evolves into a full-blown dispute. Mediators are experts at identifying problems, assessing “issue stages” and appropriately taking action to either resolve or de-escalate the issue to the right levels.
- You make THE CALL: In mediation you get to be the judge and the jury. You get to hear both sides, have your mediator help you work towards the best solution and figure out the best way to get results. If you don’t want to do that or if you don’t like the results of your mediation, you can always have a second bite at the apple and go to court. Most people who try mediation are glad that they did, cases settle outside litigation and there is no need for the time and expense of the court room.