Myths About Mediation

Myth #1: Mediation won’t work. 

Fact: Mediation does work, with lower cost and higher rates of satisfaction.  If you want courtroom drama, go to litigation.  If you want to resolve your conflict, choose mediation.  Explore this site more to learn how and why.

Myth #2:  Mediation is the same as arbitration

Fact:  No, mediation and arbitration are not the same at all.   Both are used as alternatives to court and both involve a neutral third party, but that’s where the similarity ends.  Arbitration is still set up as an adversarial model which places the decision in the hands of a third party.  Mediation is a non-adversarial, collaborative model in which the disputants reach their own, voluntary agreement. 

In arbitration, the neutral third party, or arbitrator, hears arguments from the parties in dispute, receives evidence, and makes a decision. Attorneys often speak for the parties, and the process is governed by rules of legal procedure and evidence.  Whether formal or informal, the procedure follows a legal model and the decision is made by a third party, not the disputants themselves. 

In mediation, the neutral third party, or mediator, encourages the parties in dispute to tell their stories, suggest their own solutions, and come to agreement on one of those solutions. The parties, not the mediator, make the decision. The parties generally speak for themselves, though attorneys or advocates may assist. The mediation process does not use legal procedures, and it is not governed by rules of evidence.  In mediation, every effort is made to foster an informal, conversational, and collaborative environment.

Myth #3: Mediation is a method for settling a lawsuit out of court.

False, for two reasons.  First, mediation can be used for any conflict, not just conflict that has resulted in a lawsuit.  Mediation principles are applied in settings as varied as peer mediation used to resolve student conflicts in elementary schools to international treaties brokered by neutral nations.  In fact, mediation has the greatest chance of success when used early, before a relationship has become so damaged that anyone would consider a lawsuit.  Second, mediation has potential not just to “settle” a case through resort to legal principles, but instead to heal conflict by addressing root causes.  Thus, mediation offers far more promise than mere settlement of a lawsuit.   To equate mediation merely with settlement of a lawsuit undervalues and trivializes the transformative and universal aspects of mediation as a peacemaking endeavor. 

Fact or Fantasy?

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