The A-Z of Mediation: Voluntary Participation

Scott McIver Articles, The A-Z of Mediation

There are many reasons why people choose mediation as a means of resolving conflict. These could include the impartiality and the confidentiality that comes as standard, or the simple reason that it’s just cheaper and quicker than other methods.

However, through our experience, the main benefit that people seem to point towards is that the process is voluntary.

And this is something that is unique to mediation. Compared to the likes of arbitration and litigation, where individuals can be told to attend, the idea that the parties get the final say on their participation is often very attractive.

Let’s look at the benefits that can come from mediation being voluntary:

Parties have their say on how it is organised
If the suitable information is provided, the participants will have a say in the time and date of the mediation, as well as the mediator it will be with. And, if something isn’t quite to their liking, they can choose to not take part. This could prevent cases of perceived unfairness or bias.

Relieves anxiety
Even if the process would be exactly the same, it undoubtedly causes more anxiety and stress if a party is forced to attend. By knowing that they have the final say on their attendance, this can help to ease the overall pressure, instead of feeling like they have to attend and leave with an agreement.

Empowers the parties
By giving the parties full control of their participation, topics of discussion, and points of agreement, we empower them throughout the process. They can then begin to feel more confident in offering new ideas and suggestions, or rejecting ones that don’t work for them.

Increases likelihood of sticking to the agreement
And, if it does come up, a voluntary agreement is much more likely to stick. Generally, when we work hard and commit ourselves towards something, we will also work harder to maintain it as well.

Decreases likelihood of resistance
Subsequently, we can expect to see less resistance too. Naturally, we are much more likely to dig our heels in and resist if we are told to do something against our will. With mediation, this could severely hamper the process.

Prevents further damage
If no agreement is reached, they can just leave and go back to how things were before (or at least not worse than they were before!). They aren’t forced to come up with an agreement, which could potentially damage the relationship even further.

Shows good faith
Even if there wasn’t an agreement come the end, just the fact that they attempted to resolve it shows that there was a willingness to communicate. This show of good faith could help to re-open communication and re-establish trust, making reconciliation possible further down the line.

It’s for these reasons why choosing mediation can be beneficial for everyone involved, especially for those actually involved in the dispute.

And it’s also for these reasons that mediation can be so successful, not just in finding agreements, but in getting personal and professional relationships back on track.

You can also find out more in our pre-recorded webinar, ‘How Mediation Works‘, which looks at the psychology of conflict, the structure of mediation, and, most importantly, why it is so effective.