Posted on: March 6th, 2023
Disclosure and Non-Disclosure are both key aspects of the mediation process.
On one hand, an exchange of information is absolutely necessary to resolve interpersonal conflict. Mediation is a way for people to air their thoughts, feelings, and grievances in order to rebuild or repair a relationship.
Because of this, we want participants to willingly share information with each other and ourselves. We do this by building trust, establishing rapport, and showing empathy, resulting in an environment where everybody feels comfortable and confident in sharing information.
On the other hand, mediation is also a confidential process, allowing for conflict to be resolved privately and without fear of repercussions.
As such, mediators play a crucial role in ensuring confidentiality. Through each stage of the process, we must be sure to maintain confidentiality:
Between individual meetings
Information shared in the one-on-one meetings stays between the respective participants and the mediator. We can’t take information from one individual meeting into another.
From the individual meetings to the joint session
Likewise, it is entirely up to the parties on what they bring into the joint meeting. We can’t encourage them to raise certain topics or issues, even if they were shared during the individual meetings.
When building an agreement
The agreement points must come straight from the parties. The mediator doesn’t make suggestions on what it should contain, and we’re only there to help their agreement take shape in a measurable and realistic way.
When sharing the agreement
The only people guaranteed to receive a copy of the agreement are the participants taking part. Even if it would be helpful to share with a manager/colleague, this can’t be done without the parties’ consent.
Despite all of this, there are extenuating circumstances as to when information should be disclosed to the relevant parties/authorities. These include:
Threat of harm to others
Threat of harm to children
Admission or indication of terrorism
Admission or indication of money laundering
It’s important to remember as well that confidentiality and non-disclosure don’t just benefit the parties. It also protects the mediator once the case has concluded: they can't then be called up as a witness or for questioning if, for whatever reason, the dispute goes down the legal route.
So, while there are exceptions to the rule, non-disclosure is a core principle in the practice of mediation. Not only does it protect both the participants and the mediator, but it is also one of the main reasons why mediation works well when resolving conflict.