What is Mediation?

Mediation Dawning Understanding

Thinking of taking a dispute to a lawyer? Fed up of long drawn out legal cases?  Try mediation first.

Reluctant to ask what it is?  It’s not a silly question. I, like most people, thought mediation was mainly for divorcing couples or warring nations.

It wasn’t until I saw the dramatic impact it had on two employees that I really understood how powerful it is.

That’s why I became a mediator–I love seeing the dawning understanding and relief on faces.

It’s not just another kind of legal process, it actually changes the way you see the situation and gives you more options. So what is it?

Definition of Mediation

The Chambers dictionary definition is

“to act as the agent seeking to reconcile the two sides in a disagreement.”

A technical definition might be

“a voluntary process which is cheaper, quicker and less stressful than going to court. It is most effective when it is used earlier rather than a last resort. It is confidential, nothing is shared between parties unless permission is given. What is said in the meetings is non-binding to the point of agreement. It is “without prejudice” which means what has gone on in the process cannot normally be used in any company procedures or court action.”

This, however, doesn’t really tell you much about what purpose it serves, how it works, or why it is a useful process.


The aim  is for the parties to find their own solution to the conflict/disagreement/problem. Unlike the court, where a judge tells you what to do, in mediation, you decide what the answer is, and listen to the other person’s ideas about the solution. Together, you find something that works for both of you. Even if you don’t agree, the process clarifies issues and helps you see other options.

As a mediator, I act as a “sat-nav” for the conversation. I keep the discussion on track, clarify the issues and “translate” if necessary. I’m not there to take sides or give a judgment, though I may ask challenging questions to help someone see the wider picture.

I’m there to ensure that everyone has a voice, people listen to each other and to help find new ways of solving problems. A successful mediation is much more likely to result in lasting solutions and maintaining relationships than going to court.


At the start of the process, I’ll explain mediation and make sure that everyone understands the process and agrees to take part. (If only one party wants to resolve things, mediation can’t take place. In this case, I will work with the party who wants to resolve the situation as a coach to manage the conflict.)

If everyone agrees to mediation, I then speak privately with each party, clarifying their view of the situation, what is important for them, and what they would like to achieve. It gives them a chance to vent safely and calm down enough to think straight. Often, as people work through this, they come up with other ideas and solutions.

Usually, we would then have a joint mediation meeting. In situations where emotions run high, I do not bring people together until they agree that a joint meeting would be helpful.

In both individual and joint meetings, I help each person see it through other’s eyes. Mediation focuses on the future, rather than the past. I may ask “What could you do to make it more likely that they would do what you want?”  This often brings up alternative resolutions/ideas/suggestions. I only share information with the other party if permission is given.

Mediation can take place by email, phone, face to face and over a secure video link.


The results of mediation vary from situation to situation. In almost every case, even when there has not been agreement, participants feel that mediation was a worthwhile exercise. Most mediations, as well as resolving issues, clarify understanding and bring closure. The earlier you go to mediation, the more likely you are to have a successful resolution.

Each mediator has a different experience and personality.  If you would like to have a confidential discussion about whether mediation would be appropriate, or which mediator would suit, please contact me.

Having owned and worked in family businesses, I understand the special challenges. I have also completed additional training in online mediation and special educational needs mediation.For more information: Association Northern Mediators and KIDS SEN Mediation.