Human beings evolved to react to conflict either by fighting or fleeing. We recognize conflict by hearing angry words, seeing a threat, or suffering an attack. Sensing and recognizing conflict identifies a phenomenon; however, it does not inform us how to react to it. Evolution and individual life experience will immediately provide a survival response by triggering an instantaneous release of hormones to assist in fighting or fleeing. Nothing however, prepares us to pause and to then transform reaction into conflict resolution. Nothing, except mediation.
In mediation, parties are one step removed from active conflict by a mediator, who relays messages and negotiation positions and acts as a go-between among parties. Being neutral, a mediator is not emotionally attached to the conflict or the outcome. Using techniques such as active listening and reframing, a mediator assists the parties in examining the conflict and preparing a strategy to resolve it. A successful mediation is less expensive than litigating a case in court which then yields a verdict. If mediation is unsuccessful, pending litigation can resume.
Mediation is not necessarily a one-time event. A mediator assigned to a case will often continue the process after the initial mediation session takes place. It is not unusual for more than one mediation session to occur, particularly in a complicated case; in this scenario, either party may obtain information in the first mediation session that changes their evaluation or negotiation strategy. The end of the first mediation session may signal the true beginning of the negotiation, not the end of the discussion.
It is hard to predict the decision that a judge or jury will impose at the end of a trial. It is for this reason that mediation creates an opportunity to craft a resolution agreeable to everyone.