This is the long over due second of a three part series on the spectrum of mediation. If you missed it, check out part one on evaluative mediation.The spectrum of mediation hosts three main types or styles of mediation. They flow from the most direction and influence from the mediator to the least. These styles of mediation are, Evaluative, Facilitative and Transformational. This post focuses on what Facilitative Mediation is and when it is useful. Facilitative Mediation has the potential to expand the focus from the conflict that brought the parties to mediation to include interactions between the parties themselves.
In purely facilitated mediation the mediator is a process expert who may have limited knowledge of the subject of the dispute. The parties to the dispute are guided through a process in an attempt to build understanding of each other’s needs and the events that led to the dispute. With that understanding built, the parties and the mediator work together to generate a number of potential solutions. Once the solutions are generated the parties sort through the generated solutions to find one that maximizes value. The belief is that the parties, with as little help from the mediator as possible can find their best case solution.
When is Facilitative Mediation Useful?
Facilitated mediation lends itself to disputes where the relationship needs to continue. Workplace mediations (disputes between employees) and family mediations (disputes between parents) are two examples of when it may be useful. Even in mediations that are highly evaluative, facilitation plays a roll. Facilitative techniques are used to move parties beyond their initial position. This is especially effective when emotions in mediation run high.
Does the Entire Mediation Need to be Facilitative?
No. While many mediations are entirely facilitative where the mediator is there as a guide who helps the parties through the process, often it is a mix. Parties arrive at mediation over an issue in dispute but often there is more to the conflict. In a mediation about the height of a fence both sides may have been feuding for weeks, leading to hot emotions. A purely evaluative mediator may solve the issue by looking at the town by law about fence height and leading the parties to a solution. The parties emotions would not have been dealt with and one or both sides would likely feel unfulfilled.
If that same problem were dealt with with a combination of facilitative and evaluative mediation, the parties would first learn about each other’s interests. Mutual listening and (hopefully) the perception of mutual understanding allow the parties to work together. They respect each other’s interests when formulating possible solutions. Once the parties get close or even if they agree, there may be some evaluative work to be done by the mediator. If the parties agree to a 7 foot fence rather than an 8 foot fence and the by law says the maximum height is 6 feet, then the mediator, being mildly evaluative would bring this to the parties.
Is There Benefit to Having a Subject Matter Expert do a Facilitated Mediation?
Probably. In the example above, neither party would be served by an agreement that would be dissolved by someone outside the mediation. Mediators act as resource expanders for the parties to the mediation. The people involved in the fence dispute can still agree to make the fence whatever height they want but the information provided by the mediator may help frame the discussion.
At Wakely Mediation, we provide workplace mediation, employment mediation, grievance mediation and collective bargaining mediation. We think that the process of mediation needs to be tailored to the needs of the parties and to the specific case. The parties ability to exist and work together after the deal is often important to both parties. Facilitative methods allow the parties to fully explore each other’s understanding of the situation and drives toward a value added solution. Our personal philosophy is that mediators can work to create value for all parties to a mediation and, whatever the case there is usually at least some facilitative work that goes into a mediation. If you are interested in learning more about how Wakely Mediation can help you in your dispute, please contact us for more information.
Share Your Experience with Us
Have you have a facilitative mediation go really well? What do you think could have made it better? Let me know in the comments.