Mediation is a facilitative strategy that has received much attention. It involves intervention by a neutral third party who guides the process but allows disputants control over the outcome. The mediator as facilitator or communicator serves as a channel of communication among disputing parties focusing on ensuring continued discussion and dialogue (Quinn, Biswas, and Wilkenfeld, 2006).
The mediator may provide information concerning relevant legal issues, help disputants engage in perspective taking, guide them toward a realistic settlement, and helps improve the relationship between them, or engage in some combination of these tactics (Jameson, 2001). In this paper the writer will mediate a family conflict that involves two parents and 2 two teenage children. Each parent work full-time and are in executive level positions that require a lot of travel or late hours.
As a result the children are left home a lot unattended and tend to fight all the time. Their academics are suffering because of the constant fighting with one another while the parents are not home. The older of the two dictates what should be done. The entire family is now unhappy and there seems to be constant fighting whey they are all together. As mediator I will discuss the process to assist this family. Fisher and Sharp (2004) stated “Many power struggles in the family center around vying for love, affection, notice and attention from one or both parents” (p. 25). Since parents hold the places at the top of the hierarchy and are primarily the caretakers, they are in high demand (Fisher and Sharp, 2004). This demand may have a holistic impact on the family. “The mediation process is a powerful tool for satisfying human needs and reducing suffering for parties” Bush and Folger, 2005 (p. 9). Each family scenario has different needs and the writer will provide information from her course readings and other peer reviewed articles related to mediation for the purpose of this family and provide some guidance.
Literature In mediation, although the neutral third party controls the process, the definition of the conflict and the finding of a solution are still largely in the hands of the parties themselves. The best solution that can be hoped for is a compromise between each party’s initial positions. Mediation involves identifying issues; uncovering underlying interests and concerns; setting an agenda; packaging; sequencing; and prioritizing issues; interpreting and shaping proposals; and making suggestions for possible settlement (Jameson, 2001) .
The presence of a mediator can serve several useful purposes: The mediator can encourage and model active listening for the identification of interests; reduce the level of tension between parties; keep the negotiation focused without side-tracking caused by parties’ inexperience with negotiation, high emotions, or their other agendas coming into play. A mediator can also promote early agreements on simple issues to increase momentum, help parties save face when conceding, and advance a proposal which would be rejected if it came from the other party (Dana, 2001).
Reviews of research on mediation suggest that when it is effective, participants are usually satisfied and compliance with the agreed solution is usually high. As would be expected, characteristics of the conflict, the parties, and the mediator all influence effectiveness (Carnevale & Pruitt, 1992 as cited by Cross & Rosenthal, 1999). Mediation is more effective when conflict is moderate rather than intense, when the issues don’t involve general principles, and where there is not a severe resource shortage.
It is more successful when parties are highly motivated to reach a resolution, are committed to mediation, trust the mediator, and are relatively equal in power. It helps if parties have positive working relationships and a sense of mutual dependence. In terms of mediator characteristics, use of a friendly style, perceived neutrality, and perceived power, which sometimes stems from reputation and authority, also influence effectiveness (Dana, 2001). Parties The parties involved are a family of four with two parents and two teenage children.
Bob and Janet whom have been married for 15 years have two children John age 13 years and Julie age 12 years. Both parents work extensively as full-time executives. The family is experiencing some challenges which has left them feeling unhappy and seem to always be constantly fighting among themselves when they are all together. A mediator has been called in to assist this family. Action Plan The mediator would like to confirm that the use of mediation is appropriate for this family. Deutsch, Coleman and Marcus (2006) identifies he basic framework for determining the use of mediation includes elements such as the parties can be identified, are interdependent, and interest are not entirely incompatible. Mediation is especially likely to prove useful whenever there are additional obstacles (Deutsch, Coleman, and Marcus 2006). The mediator realizes this is situation may involve a lot of emotional feelings therefore would like to apply the transformative approach to this family crisis. As mediator I would utilize an opening conversation with the family to discuss whatever is important to them. I will lead the group in identifying their goals for the conversation.
This type of approach suggests the mediator is inviting the parties to have a conversation verses dictating next steps as mentioned by Bush and Folger (2005). In facilitating this process I would like to begin establishing a relationship with parties to talk about the process which help me in building credibility and rapport. I would like to come up with a strategy to determine the best approach for this party. Having the background information on each member of this family will help me in this process. In preparation of our first session I like to begin an open conversation starting with identifying goals.
Brainstorming is another excellent way to come up with goals. Another method the mediator could use the nominal group technique which is describe by Dana (2001) as technique for team mediation which includes silent generation of ideas, round robin reporting, group clarification, voting and ranking. We will also set some helpful ground rules that everyone will need to abide in order to successfully accomplish our goals. Some ground rules may include: not interrupting, no sidebar conversations, respecting one another, no outbursts and disorderly conduct to name a few.
In the event the parties are side tracked the mediator will use the goals and ground rules to assist the parties with staying on target. As mediator I really want to focus on what the issues are and determine a sequence for handling each one. The family will decide on each issue to be discussed and stay within the realms of the ground rules established. As we discuss the issues we can begin generating options for addressing the issues for settlement. Communication will be a key factor during this dialogue.
Bush and Folger (2005) suggest that mediators rely on a set of key communication skills that allow for and support parties’ efforts to move through the substance of their dispute and shape the process in ways that they find necessary or useful (p. 111). Mediators recognize important verbal and nonverbal markers of possible shifts in the parties’ interaction and are then able to support them with several kinds of responses (Bush and Folger, 2005). Being a mediator for this family I would want to motivate each member to meeting the objectives. Encouraging optimism is another element of the motivation to begin moving in a positive direction.
We will talk positively about one another and present evidence that good intentions are there. I want the group to experience that agreement is possible. Engineering a series of small agreements linked to one another is a chainlike fashion can prove useful (Pruitt and Kim, 2004). Final Action Dana (2001) has outlined group mediation process as follows: define the issue, define the parties, get the parties to the table, help the parties define their interests, brainstorm options, test options against interests and modify as necessary, finalize the action plan and ask for commitment.
The final stage involves combining those options which meet the key interests of the parties into integrative or win-win solutions. Forming multiple solutions increases the likelihood that one acceptable to everyone will be found. This stage requires a more disciplined and logical form of problem-solving (Fisher and Ury (1996), Pruitt and Rubin (1986), and Wertheim et al. (1998) as cited by Joyner, 2000). From a team mediation perspective everyone will be committed to their segment of the action plan. With a Win-Win solution, all parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan.
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