What is Mediation, Really? (And Do I Want It?) - Mediation Series: Mediation Part III: Preparation

As we have discussed, mediation is a powerful process to help you resolve disputes that may arise during and/or as a result of major changes in your life, like divorce, custody disputes, and others. In Part 1, we covered how engaging in mediation gives you the power to create solutions that reflect your values.  In Part 2, we introduced you to the Process of mediation. Knowing the nuts and bolts can help to demystify mediation, and set you up for success in knowing how to Prepare.

Which brings us to this installment. Here we will discuss how being prepared for mediation is important to your chances of concluding a successful mediation.

Preparation Is Key

One thing that will increase your chance of magic happening is good preparation. This doesn't necessarily mean having a huge stack of papers carefully labeled with tabs. It's more about introspection – of being able to identify for yourself where your own hang-ups are, what your own “interests” (as opposed to “positions”) are, and where you can remain openminded to allowing new information in but also without compromising your own values. It also means making sure you are well fed so you don't get hangry during the meeting, and that you've had a good night's sleep. The last thing you want is for low blood sugar to unduly influence how your major life decisions are being made.

Mediators Have Different Styles

Not all mediators are created equal. Some are, to be blunt, pretty bad at it. Others really do seem like those magicians – pulling resolution bunnies out of conflict black voids.  If you happen to strike a bad one, don't give up off the bat. Sometimes just the process alone is enough to carry things through. If not, maybe try again with somebody else. It happens. Of course, working with a good legal team can help you avoid the bad mediators. We've seen the good, the bad, and guide our clients to the greatest chance of success … even matching mediators' personalities with the parties'.

The mediator is not there to make decisions. He/she will not tell you how he or she would rule on certain legal issues. The mediator's job is to help facilitate realcommunication.  Some mediators “beat up on” both sides, pointing out the weaknesses (and strengths) of each. I call these the football coach mediators. If that's the style of the mediator you use, don't take it personally. If the mediator seems like they are taking the other side's position, that is because they are trying to point out where they think your weaknesses are and why you should have incentive to consider your position.  They are very likely doing the same thing to the other side at the same time.

Another style is what I like to call the shuttle mediator. This kind of mediator kind of just takes messages and passes them along without too much input. Sometimes this can be effective, especially if the parties are already fairly inclined to settle. Other times you may need someone more creative and involved.

Yet another, is the empathic mediator.  This mediator listens intently, and “gets where you're coming from.” This mediator can be helpful in a high-conflict situation, as long as you're then willing to listen when they have insights to share.


As you probably know if you've participated in any of our programs or have been reading our other blogs, at New Leaf our focus is on empowering you to make the best decisions you can for yourself and your family. We believe that, especially when combined with other self-development work like our Decision-Transition-Equilibrium training, mediations can be a very effective tool in getting to a resolution. They're not the only tool, but they are often a good one and we like to help you put as many arrows in your quiver as we can.