Organizational • Community • Family • Divorce
Minimum 1 hour
Participant number: Situational
Mediation is a facilitated discussion with the support of a party outside of the conflict. Because conflict can make communication difficult, the mediator works to create a more open environment, one where all voices are heard. Mediation helps people to engage with their conflict in a different way—through direct communication and the power of understanding.
Shift from reacting to engaging
When faced with conflict, we have a tendency to freeze, fight, or flee. It is our evolutionary legacy. We react to protect ourselves. We may choose to fight by hiring attorneys to speak on our behalf. We may litigate and leave the final outcome to a judge. We may freeze or flee by ignoring the conflict entirely, and hope it will go away. But a conflict ignored has a tendency to return. With time hearts harden, positions become more entrenched, and the situation only gets worse. Mediation moves parties toward "engagement."
Conflict's financial and emotional toll
It is not easy to engage and navigate the complexities of conflict when we are emotionally reactive. Everything looks right or wrong and polarized. This is why in the United States, we spend over $10 billion annually on interpersonal conflicts and consequences of violence. Not only do we spend money to fight in the court system—we pay an enormous emotional price as well. Conflict is one of life's worst stressors. For families going through conflicts such as divorce or employees locked in a power-struggle, mediation offers a way to shift the dynamic.
The powerful process of mediation
Mediation is a powerful process that encourages each party to speak, listen, be understood, and decide. Whether it is used to help people reconcile or to part on good terms, to move through a stalemate or to create a fair agreement, mediation is a method that engages the neocortex—the part of the brain responsible for emotional regulation and other “executive functions”—and that allows participants to bring more innovative solutions to the table.
Historically, mediators identify as “neutral and impartial.” Neutrality is a position centered in whiteness. Neutrality has no place in the face of racism and other oppression, as taking a neutral position may replicate harm. To hold one another accountable, the parties must be encouraged to open to the full complexity of themselves in conflict. As an anti-racist, justice and equity-centered mediator I am committed to naming the impact of power, privilege, rank, race, and culture that profoundly affects conflicts so that the parties may discuss how their social location can influence their conflict.