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Announcements: November 30, 2021

Mediation vs. Negotiation

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Welcome back to the NEGOTIATEx podcast! The team is focused today on the differences between mediation and negotiation. In life and business, […]

Welcome back to the NEGOTIATEx podcast! The team is focused today on the differences between mediation and negotiation. In life and business, you’re likely to be involved in both.

Mediation vs. Negotiation: What’s the Difference?

There is a full, dictionary-style definition of mediation: A voluntary, confidential, and informal process by which a neutral, impartial 3rd party facilitates a dialogue between 2 parties in conflict to help them resolve their dispute.

Aram has his own definition, though: “A facilitated negotiation.”

On a conflict scale, negotiations come first. These normally involve 2 parties who are able to work things out together.

Mediations are a little higher up the scale. These 2 (or more) people cannot work things out for themselves. Consequently, a negotiator is required.

This requires a different process. In other words, the usual negotiation tactics don’t necessarily apply within a mediation.

However, it’s not necessarily an exotic situation, either. Many of us are involved in informal mediations every day at work. We just don’t always note the fact.

Likewise, parents may informally mediate between children. Sometimes it’s necessary just to get everyone out the door for school on time.

Formal mediations are a little less commonplace. At the same time, they’re not alien, either: Sometimes a married couple wanting to divorce will be required to attend mediation before taking things to court.

Workplace union mediations are usually more formal, in terms of structure. In most of these formal settings, you have to prepare, similarly to how you would for a negotiation.

Setting the Stage & Shifting Gears

At the mediation table, you have to set an agenda and then, ultimately, negotiate. You need to assess your performance afterward, too.

It helps to get proactive. Reach out to all parties involved ahead of time. As a result of this pre-work, you should gain a better understanding of the problem.

Ideally, it should help you establish a rapport with both (or all) of the parties. The resulting ROI from that is, hopefully,  a degree of mutual trust.

At the table, introduce yourself and then state your goals. Clarify the process as you do.

Next, make it clear that participation is purely voluntary—and that everything will remain completely confidential.

From here, things should start to sound familiar: Hear from each of the parties; listen for their issues and concerns.

With these in mind, establish an agenda. This will provide an agreed-upon framework within which to operate.

The next step is simply digging deeper into everyone’s concerns. Prioritize them and take notes for later reference.

Help everyone generate options. Don’t shoehorn your ideas into things; listen and allow them to come up with their own.

Keep the door open to caucusing, as well: As needed, allow parties to meet with you in private to discuss their concerns. In fact, try to meet for a similar amount of time with everyone to keep things fair.

At the same time, avoid setting a precedent of pulling over to personally resolve the smallest of low-level conflicts. Where ever you can, empower participants to figure out and resolve issues for themselves.

This isn’t like negotiating, in which we often have a personally desired outcome. In fact, a mediator’s job is to be neutral; impartial.

Seek everyone’s benefit—with neither favor toward nor bias against anyone.

Key Takeaways

  • Model the kind of character you’d like to see in participants. Be patient, unbiased, and a good listener. In other words, check your ego at the door.
  • Get familiar with the parties and their concerns beforehand. The act of reaching out ahead of time can help start trust forming early. The gesture could help establish a rapport, as well.
  • Remember as a leader that mediation is a valuable tool on your belt. Avoid assuming that you have to make every single decision for everyone. Instead, empower people to work things out for themselves where they can.

Aram and Nolan have many more insights for you in today’s NEGOTIATEx podcast.  Don’t forget to drop by negotiatex.com for more information and our negotiation prep tool, either.

Your time’s important to us. Thanks for listening!

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