As a form of alternative dispute resolution, mediation programs seek to resolve a dispute or conflict through involvement of an impartial third party. Many types of individuals and organizations utilize these programs, including employers and schools. Proposed benefits like effectiveness, objectivity, cost savings, and an enhanced understanding of contentious issues make mediation an attractive dispute resolution option for such people.
Mediation programs generally abide by certain standards. For one, a mediator is typically trained in specific techniques for problem-solving and psychological methods such as active listening skills, neutral communication, non-verbal communication cues, and effective open-ended questioning techniques. These professional requirements enhance the likelihood that mediation will be efficient, well-directed, and ultimately successful. Years of statistical compilations have indicated a consistent average 80 percent success rate for mediation programs.
Mediators must also remain impartial. In fact, a mediator will not determine who is right or wrong in a dispute. Rather, the mediator helps involved parties find common ground. Through compromise, all parties are more likely to find a solution that will satisfy everyone. Individuals are taught that other options exist besides anger or violence, which is a particularly important lesson for certain populations like students.
As such, the mediation process helps put aside barriers that may prevent in-depth understanding of an issue. All sides have an opportunity to air their grievances and concerns. Further, everyone has a chance to promote their own viewpoint. Mediation fosters an atmosphere for the free and mutual exchange of ideas minus the emotional volatility that often arises in less structured settings.
Discussions that remain calm and friendly also foster quicker resolutions. Researchers estimate a three to six month difference between resolutions reached through mediation programs and resolutions reached through other means. Often, other methods of dispute resolution include contentious actions such as litigation. In these cases, a resolution may take years or may never truly be reached. Therefore, mediation also reduces the cost associated with a dispute, both financial and emotional.
Mediation is useful in a wide variety of settings. Organizations often call upon the method to resolve conflicts between employees and employers or other employees. These types of sessions usually take about three or four hours. Schools can use peer mediation for student or teacher conflicts, and many higher education institutions even offer classes specializing in conflict resolution and mediation. Political issues often necessitate mediation as well, and many government agencies even require some form of dispute mediation program for their employees.