By Patricia Barrett, CFP CDFA Mediator
Research appropriate objective standards prior to the mediation, in order to have it at your disposal at the appropriate time. Ideally, you will obtain various benchmarks to provide additional validity. Your notes should also include some possible alternative solutions to the problem. Such a draft can supply starting points for discussion.
Mediations may progress more effectively if very difficult items are set aside for later in the meeting. In this manner, you may be able to establish a pattern of minor successes before broaching the biggest, most difficult issue.
When your proposals are criticized, try to emphasize the underlying interest and open the discussion for possible alternatives that will suffice. In this manner you can adhere rigidly to your interests, while being open to other methods of satisfying them. At the same time, stick to agreed upon standards and to principles. Sometimes, creative tradeoffs can supply the missing link to a settlement.
Occasionally, it is necessary to agree to disagree on a particular item. If the issue is not a major one, this may be enough to avoid constant arguments.
When you make an offer, make it for a couple of minor points, and wait for response from the other side. Even these first attempts at offers should only be made following extensive discussion about interests and issues. The firmer the offer, preferably made in writing, the more impressive it will be to the other side and the more likely it will merit careful consideration.
Any successive offer should be carefully crafted in its language and presented clearly, using precise terminology. If it is too broad, it can create confusion or become impossible to implement. Outline the commitment you wish to obtain from the other side and the commitment you offer. Specifically name the interests served by each commitment, and how it will meet needs for each side.
While all of the suggestions in this text would be overwhelming if used at once, try a couple of the methods, keeping careful notes of what worked and what didn’t work. You may also want to note what might be changed in the future to bring about success. If you will keep some sort of diary of mediations and refer to it after each session, adding more notes, you will have an excellent handbook of your own experience with successful methods.
Negotiation is the power to persuade someone to do something. Even when the sides are unequal in power (or wealth), it is possible to employ objective standards to fairly bring about a negotiated settlement that will be satisfying to both. Good communications and understanding also add power when used, since this enhances chances for a fair outcome.