How A Mediator Can Help Make Things BetterLiveItUpCover

By Lu Haussler, J.D. (Owner of Mediation Group of Santa Cruz)

(This editorial appeared on Page 11 of the Fall 2015, issue of the “Live It Up!” quarterly magazine, published by the Santa Cruz Sentinel on Friday, October 30, 2015.)

A mediator can help you move from argument to agreement. Whether you are involved in a recent conflict, or are plagued by an ongoing dispute that may have started years ago, a mediator can help you find a resolution that will allow both parties to move forward. The written Agreement that you leave with (typically after one or two sessions) can help you avoid costly and time-consuming litigation or having to take the other party to Small Claims Court.

Sometimes people just need a new way of communicating. A good mediator will train the parties in techniques that promote calmer, more effective communication. These new communication tools also help the parties avoid future crisis situations. The process allows each party to feel heard, maybe for the first time since the conflict arose.

A professional mediator can assist you with crisis management and creating a peace plan. Clients typically meet with a mediator for 1-3 hours per session, with additional sessions scheduled if necessary. The parties learn effective communication skills, and participate in piecing together a plan for resolving their conflict. A signed, written Agreement is created, and both parties leave with a copy of their Agreement. The Agreement can be modified in future sessions if needed.

Family relationships are a rich source of conflict between spouses, domestic partners, parents and teens, siblings, and every degree of relatives. Family fights come in all shapes and sizes, from daily spats over household chores to major blow-ups over everything from hurt feelings to inheritance issues. If you are having trouble even staying in the same room with a family member, or trying to have a civil conversation with a relative, a mediator can help you by meeting in a calm, neutral setting, allowing the arguments to be aired, and then finding a resolution by piecing together a peace plan. Each party will leave with new communication skills and a mutually acceptable written Agreement. This process can help change old habits by establishing new patterns of interacting among family members.

It doesn’t always take two to tangle. A mediator can also provide individuals with the critically needed services of personal facilitation and advocacy. These special services may take the form of individual situation facilitation, group situation facilitation, or multiple-party facilitation. There may be times when you just cannot face a problem or interact with another person or business or group on your own. You may need a mediator to step into your shoes and handle the difficult, awkward, tense, complex, or overwhelming situation on your behalf. Or you may be part of a group that needs help getting the whole group to agree on the best approach to a convoluted or messy situation, often with multiple layers of disputes. A mediator can help by meeting with you or your group to meticulously explore and define the problems, chart your goals, and then help you to prioritize the options for achieving those goals. Once the areas of conflict are identified, and the approaches to resolving them are outlined, then the mediator can also assist you by advocating on your behalf, or by coaching your group’s representative regarding how to execute the plan for achieving an optimal and acceptable outcome.

A good mediator will tailor the mediation process to address the specific type of dispute or complex conflict that nearly everyone finds themselves dealing with at some point. Instead of compounding the stress by avoiding the other party, or allowing the situation to escalate, finding a good mediator will allow you to resolve the problem quickly and fairly, while avoiding the high costs of litigating in court. For a very reasonable fee, which can be split by the parties, you can mediate and move on.

Thank you for keeping us focused and for keeping the lines of communication open. You helped us save thousands of dollars, and we learned so much about ourselves and what is possible when you have a careful and experienced mediator helping you every step of the way.

Caroline A., Santa Cruz, CA