As a mediator, my goal is to get disputing parties to reach a settlement, but not all cases work out that way.
Recently I had a mediation session between two parties that is stuck in impasse. No matter how much I encourage them to move forward, their difference is too great to be settled and each party walked away from the proverbial table (Zoom meeting).
Although I am disappointed that my efforts did not lead to a settlement, I am still happy that the mediation took place, because even a failed mediation are beneficial the parties in dispute.
An Exchange of Information
In a dispute, whether it is a divorce or an commercial claim, each party arrives at the mediator’s table armed with a set of information gathered from what is available to them. However, as the information available to each party is often incomplete, the opinions and insights created from the information can be significantly different from the other party.
Therefore, one of the first goals of mediation is the exchange of information. By laying out the information each party have in a confidential and neutral setting, each side can obtain insights about the other party. For example, an insurance company can see why its customer came up with the numbers that support their higher claim.
A Shift in Perspective
Information is a powerful tool for mediators to bring each party closer together, because each party gain more insight that can enable us to shift our perspective. By expanding the information available to both sides, mediators can help shift perspective of each party and provide guidance to reach common ground. For example, an insurance company might be willing to increase its settlement offer by understanding the true cost of repair, while the insured can understand the limits of their policies and discover the maximum amount the insurance company would cover.
Silver Lining in an Impasse
Sometimes, even when a mediator try their hardest, the gulf between the parties are too wide to be resolved in one mediation session, and an impasse was reached. However, not all is lost in an unsuccessful mediation. By exchanging information, each side can now take what they have learned and consider their next step, which can lead to a more productive discussion either through direct communication or through another mediation session.
In conclusion, mediation through a neutral party in a dispute is a useful tool to resolve a dispute, even if a settlement cannot be reached.
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