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When motivated parties are involved, mediation is a remarkable process. Mediation has many potentially attractive features—cost effective, fair, efficient, and a mechanism for yielding enduring benefits. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the process is that it does not require you to change your attitude(s) in order for it to produce a success. In mediation, if you think poorly of the other party, that’s okay. Continue to think poorly of that person in the most determined way possible.

The focus of mediation is finding a “common ground” with another person (or group) so that a conflict can be understood and acted on in more realistic, productive ways. Mediation emphasizes collaboration and gently encourages all parties to move away from “positional bargaining” (arguing only from your point of view and guided solely by self-interest) to a more mutual understanding of the problem situation and a mutual weighing of the options available.

Much of mediation’s success hinges on the utilization of information and the ability to assume alternative perspectives by all parties involved. As an informal way of assessing your capacity to assume different perspectives, consider the many scarves and hankies before you. They all come from the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. As an illustration in perspective taking, appreciate the fact that while this fair was much heralded and celebrated, another world’s fair was occurring at the very same time in San Francisco (the Golden Gate Exposition) and Europe was already in the throes of what would become known as World War II.

All these textiles (hanging outside our conference room) are potentially “different” or “alike”, depending on the context in which they are viewed. See how many different ways you can group them based on a common or shared quality? For example, one group might be all scarves and hankies that have “World’s Fair” inscribed somewhere. Remember a group consists of at least two members. If you can only come up with 2-3 groupings, you’re probably mismatched with the format and structure of mediation; conversely, if you come up with at least 6-8 groups, mediation can be a productive forum for you. Should you be able to shift your perspective-taking enough times to generate at least fifteen groups, you have demonstrated motivation and you’re ready to go!

While we use ideas and the mechanics from several different mediation models, we primarily rely on the interest-based model developed by the Center for Dispute Resolution in Boulder Colorado. Two of us have been trained and certified using this model of mediation.

Two cautionary notes: Any settlement agreement generated in mediation related to a divorce proceeding must be reviewed by the parties’ attorneys before being finalized. Secondly, mediation, like therapy, is a bit innocent and assumes individuals to be forthright in their reporting. Unfortunately, highly contentious divorces and/or ones that involve large sums of money often challenge standards of “good behavior.” In these cases, one is often better served by foregoing mediation and retaining a competent (and yes, combative) attorney.

Mediation is provided either on-site (e.g., a place of work) or off-site (usually here in Needham). If the need arises, we will travel to provide mediation.