Like many things in life, mediation works best when parties come well prepared for the tough discussion ahead. Here are some tips to keep in mind in preparing for your mediation.
Prepare Yourself to Listen With an Open Mind
Recognize that every situation has multiple sides, and each party has needs. It is entirely possible, even likely, that the other party feels unheard also. Mediation works best if all parties come prepared to listen to what the others have to say. Parties cannot be listening if they are too busy planning what to say next. You never know what you might hear, so do not assume you know what the other person will say. In our experience, many conflicts arise when one person or another feels they are not being listened to. Similarly, tensions are often reduced when a party feels heard. Preparing for your mediation means preparing to listen.
Make a summary and chronology of events
Mediations are typically scheduled for two hours. This is a much more limited time than one might think, especially if processing several years’ worth of issues. We have often found that if parties are able to condense their experiences on paper beforehand, they can tell their stories more directly and succinctly in mediation. Some photos might even be useful to help illustrate a situation from your perspective, but remember that the mediators are not judges; they have no role in determining guilt or innocence. Ideally, properly preparing for your mediation will mean less time spent venting grievances in mediation and more time spent working toward solutions, which is why we come to mediation.
Put Focus on the Future
Mediation is about forward thinking. Best practice is to consider not only the problems at hand, but how they might be solved to satisfaction; what the ideal situation might look like. Each party should think about what he or she wants to see coming out of mediation. Each should contemplate what he or she is realistically willing to do to help make this desirable outcome happen. What does one want to ask from the other party? Would this request be reasonable if it were asked of me? Thinking about the future is important preparation for any mediation.
Avoid Negativity; Keep An Open Mind
Anything is possible in a mediation. Bring creative ideas to the mediation table, but be open to the ideas of others. Treat the other party with the same respect that you want for yourself. Keep in mind that we are trying to work through a situation that is difficult for all involved; we are all here to find resolution, not to determine guilt or assign blame. Be ready to put the past in the past and to find ways to form effective solutions for long-lasting neighborhood peace.