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Good InfoFor the love of: mediation - Positive News

For the love of: mediation – Positive News

Mediation is in the spotlight right now, from the conflict in Gaza and the Post Office scandal to its impending integration into the civil justice system. But what exactly is it? And how could it help you? One mediator talks us through it

The word ‘mediation’ is frequently bandied about at the moment, from the war in Gaza to the Post Office scandal to its impending integration into the civil justice system. 

At its heart, mediation is a confidential, structured process that brings together people in dispute and enables them to have a constructive conversation. Unlike going to court, where a judge picks a winner and a loser, mediation gives control to the parties in conflict. They are the ones – supported by the mediator – who come up with the solution. And because they create any resolutions, these are likely to be realistic, manageable and in everyone’s interests. 

The mediator is independent and neutral. They’re not trying to decide who’s right or wrong or take sides; they are on everyone’s side. The mediation process itself is quicker and cheaper than going down the legal route and the outcome can be kept private rather than being discussed in open court or splashed across the media. 

As a mediator I’m privileged to hear deeply personal stories ranging from heartbreaking to jaw-dropping, from the humdrum to the extraordinary. But the golden rule of confidentiality means I can’t reveal details of cases. Suffice to say, in the mediation room I’ve witnessed tears and flaming rows, I’ve averted punch-ups and walk-outs, and I’ve felt moved seeing participants exchange hugs and handshakes after reaching an agreement. 

Often people desperately need to be listened to and feel heard. Usually there’s something deeper going on under the surface of the conflict and it’s the job of the mediator to help people dig down and discover what’s really driving the dispute. Even a seemingly dry, straightforward case about money matters can turn out to have complex, emotional factors at play.  

Beyond hostage negotiation: mediation’s relevance in the everyday 

1. Putting aside intensely challenging, life or death forms of conflict resolution that (hopefully) most of us won’t need in our lifetimes, such as hostage negotiation or peacebuilding following armed conflict, there are many different types of mediation that most of us are quite likely to need at some point: 

2. Community mediation: this might involve neighbours who’ve fallen out over matters like noise, anti-social behaviour or a boundary disagreement. The impact on the lives of those embroiled in this type of dispute cannot be underestimated. The impact on their quality of life and mental health can be devastating. The number of GPs referring individuals to community mediation has almost doubled in two years.  

As a mediator I’m privileged to hear deeply personal stories ranging from heartbreaking to jaw-dropping, from the humdrum to the extraordinary

3. Workplace mediation: the most common areas of conflict tend to be around poor communication, breakdown of trust, clashes of working styles and issues relating to harassment or bullying. It’s estimated that 9.7 million employees experience conflict at work in the UK each year with more than one million workers having to take time off because of it. The cost of conflict to UK organisations is put at almost £30bn per year. 

4. Civil and commercial mediation: this covers disputes involving two or more people, organisations or businesses over the provision of services and goods or commercial arrangements. A study by CEDR, the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution, shows commercial mediation saved businesses £3bn a year in wasted management time, damaged relationships, lost productivity and legal fees. 

5. Family mediation: this is where arrangements for children and finances following separation are worked out. With the average cost of a divorce in the UK standing at more than £14,000 in 2018, paying £1,000-£2,000 for mediation is clearly a more affordable option. And for those on low-income legal aid is available, as is a voucher of up to £500 to resolve issues relating to child arrangement matters. 

Giselle Green specialises in civil, community and workplace mediations

The breadth of areas in which mediation is now used in is increasing: there’s intergenerational mediation: think children falling out with parents or adult siblings clashing over the care of elderly relatives or inheritance disputes; elder mediation: giving a voice to and safeguarding older people; SEND mediation: to resolve issues over education, health and care (EHC) plans or an EHC needs assessment; peer mediation: this tackles conflict in schools and colleges by training pupils and students to be mediators to their peers; and even pet mediation: who gets to keep the dog when couples divorce? 

And many public institutions have turned to mediators: whether it’s prisons using mediation for violence reduction; police and victim support groups using restorative justice to bring together victims and offenders; or NHS trusts employing in-house mediators to repair staff relations. 

The success rate of mediation is impressive. According to the latest report from CEDR, over 90% of commercial mediations are successful, while Calm Mediation – a leading London provider of mediation services for neighbours and neighbourhoods, families, workplaces and educational settings – say 85% plus of their mediation meetings conclude with an agreement.

So, if you’ve fallen foul of your neighbour, clashed with colleagues at work, experienced friction in the family, or are wrangling with a business client or service provider, you don’t need to suffer in silence nor do you need to resort to court. The power of mediation – and what still surprises and inspires me about this almost magical process – is how it can transform a seemingly hopeless situation into a positive outcome for all involved.

Giselle Green is a registered mediator with the Civil Mediation Council, specialising in civil, community and workplace mediations. She also volunteers with bodies including Calm Mediation, the Society of Mediators and the Tower Hamlets Mediation Project 

Main image: SDI Productions

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