Mediation: Short and Simple?

People who end up entangled in professional disputes are often cross and are impatient: time is being wasted in a frustrating and perhaps horribly expensive way.

So a mediator has to work with the parties and help them tackle a question to which there is no good answer. Should they cut their losses and try to reach a quick ‘good enough’ deal, or a slower, more patient, ‘deeper’ deal?

This is part of a wider key issue in all negotiation. Is it better to create complexity for others, to give pause for thought, to generate a sense of uncertainty as to what the best outcome is? That may suggest patiently using more time to get a result.

Or rather should you aim to create simplicity (‘let’s face it, it all boils down to this’), to strip away detail and instead focus on what you think ‘really’ matters? Perhaps this will be quicker and maybe even less painful?

We tend to think that once parties have made the breakthrough to go for mediation, they should then invest the time and effort needed to get a result that is as far as possible emotionally satisfying as well as operationally or financially convenient.

Because, after all, what actually is the real problem you want the mediation to solve? The important financial issues at stake? Or the breakdown in communication and trust, and the resultant disappointment gnawing away inside you?

Why not aim to resolve both?

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