How to Prepare for Mediation
Posted on March 10, 2019 at 12:00 PM
So, you’ve decided to use mediation to address your conflict. Good for you for
moving toward resolution! As you anticipate your first session with your mediator,
how can you prepare for this experience to gain the most value from it? Below are
Use the intake process to inform your mediator. In most cases, mediation is
initiated when the mediator calls or meets with you to gather information about
your case. The intake gives you an opportunity to briefly explain the conflict and
how mediation might help. The mediator will ask specific questions to gather the
information that will be useful to them, and you can offer additional information
that you feel might help them get a better picture of the issue or conflict.
Understand your mediator. Get to know your mediator’s approach and their
typical strategy for working with cases like yours. Mediation is an art as much as a
craft, and each mediator operates in a distinct way. Visit their website and ask them
to send you their Agreement to Mediate Form, which they will ask you to sign during
your first session. Read the form carefully to educate yourself about the process and
Consider other people who might help. The mediation process often benefits
from the input of attorneys, counselors, advisors, and supporters. Who might help
you navigate this process? Many mediators are open to having these other people
attend mediation sessions with you. Please be sure to consult your mediator and the
other party before inviting someone to come.
Adopt a mediation mindset. Think of mediation as an opportunity to move
through conflict and find resolution on the other side. Here are some ideas:
- Mediation works best when the parties to the conflict agree to work together in
good faith. Be open to communicating with the other party and finding new ways
to solve problems.
- Think about what you need and avoid adopting a rigid position. For example, if
divorced parents are talking about changing the children's schedule and the dad
is worried about losing his weekend time with them, he might say, "My time with
my kids is very important to me, so I'd like to talk about ways I can maintain or
increase that time" instead of saying, "I will not agree to any schedule changes."
- Remember that reaching an agreement with the other party reduces the chances
of the conflict dragging on or resurfacing in the future. And a carefully developed
agreement that can stand the test of time is important in an ongoing relationship,
such as within a family or a work situation.
- When scheduling a mediation session, try to choose a time during which you will
be rested and alert. Try to avoid times when you might be tired and less able to
focus and think carefully. If your mediation session happens at a time that is not
ideal for you, know that it might take a little extra energy.
- Take care of tasks and errands before coming to mediation so you can focus with
a clear mind during mediation.
- Be aware of how you experience stress and anxiety during conflict. If you know
that the upcoming mediation session will be stressful, inform your mediator of
this beforehand and suggest ways that the mediator might help to support you
through this process.
- Think about your symptoms of stress and anxiety, and learn to anticipate them.
Consider strategies to calm yourself down if things get heated or scary during
mediation. Deep breathing, asking the mediator for a break, and standing up to
stretch are some options to relieve stress and anxiety. You could also ask the
mediator to take a different tack to relieve the pressure of the moment.
- Refer to the past to frame the conflict, then focus on the future. Consider what
resolution might look and feel like. If the conflict is resolved, what will change?
- Remember that conflict resolution takes time. Be patient with the process.
Bring useful documents. If you have former agreements, court orders, schedules,
or other documents that are pertinent, bring them to mediation. Sometimes it’s
helpful to have this information on hand to answer questions that come up during
mediation. Also bring your calendar to schedule additional mediation sessions if
When you walk into mediation having mentally prepared for it, you increase the
likelihood that it will be a productive, rewarding process.
Jennifer Guarino is a Certified Mediator who specializes in family mediation, group facilitation, and restorative justice. Her mediation practice, JG Mediation, is located in
the Randolph Co-Worker Space at Two South Main Street in Randolph, VT. Visit her website at jgmediation.net.
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