So what’s this mediation thing all about? Well, here are a few of its core values — i.e., what we mediators hold near and dear to our meditation hearts.
Self-Determination – The basic tenant of mediation is that both parties have the autonomy and feel empowered to make the decisions instead of giving up that power to a neutral third party. It is paramount that mediators not be looked as the “decision-maker” – the mediator is simply there to guide the conversation to help the parties themselves make the decision.
Neutrality/Impartiality—It is critically important that the mediator remain neutral and impartial during the process. If the mediator has a prior relationship with one person, or the attorney mediator has given legal advice to one person prior to the mediation, then the mediator should recuse themselves.
Voluntary—Mediation is voluntary. Simply because someone showed up to mediation once doesn’t mean that they will come back. They can leave mediation at anytime. It is important that all parties recognize that they are there because they want to be there and work through the dispute.
Confidentiality –There are few rules governing mediation but confidentiality is a basic tenant that applies to both attorney and non-attorney mediators. Some mediators choose to shred their files/notes after the mediation to take this promise of confidentiality one step further. Nothing said during a mediation session can be disclosed in court.
Safety –Mediation is not appropriate in all situations. If there is a temporary or final order of protection or allegations of (domestic) violence, then mediation should cease immediately. Some mediators will still conduct “virtual mediation” in these situations where the parties are no longer in the same room or building. The mediator should make the call on whether the imbalance of power is detrimental to the process. Mediators should sit in the middle, closest to the door in case a fight breaks out in the middle of the mediation insofar that he/she is fearful for his/her safety. If there is any physical altercation during the mediation then the mediation session should stop immediately
Quality–This is a straightforward underlying value of mediation. Mediators should be cognizant to maintain the quality of the mediation session for everyone involved. Mediators may come up with her or her own “rules” (per se) to protect the quality of the mediation (e.g., no cellphone usage). For example, if one party is unnerved and unable to concentrate for whatever reason, then the mediation session should be postponed. If the mediator is suffering from his/her own personal conflict that makes it difficult to perform quality work, then the mediation session should be postponed until another date when a productive mediation can be facilitated.