What is Mediation and How Does it Work?

The mediation is a conflict resolution process in which the two warring parties voluntarily turn an impartial third person, the mediator, to reach a satisfactory agreement.

It is an extrajudicial process, different from the usual legal channels of dispute resolution, it is creative because it promotes the search for solutions that meet the needs of the parties, and implies not being restricted to what the law says.

In addition, the solution is not imposed by third parties, but is created by the parties to the conflict.

According to Aird, the parties to the conflict meet with the mediator, who will help them communicate so they can find a mutually satisfactory solution. The agreement benefits both parties involved, achieving a solution of the type I win / you win.

What is Mediation

Communication is an essential element in the resolution of conflicts, in fact, the mediation process consists of providing the parties with quality communication resources so that they can reach an agreement and resolve the problem that befalls them.


Throughout the process, the parties talk about reproaches, positions, opinions, desires, needs and feelings, and the role of the mediator is to help them to express themselves constructively and above all to be heard, in such a way that the communication that is established between them helps them find solutions to the conflict.

Good communication can help the parties work together to find solutions that are satisfactory for everyone involved.

The basic principles of mediation

  1. The mediator is impartial and must be perceived by the parties to the conflict.
  2. Mediation is voluntary, either party may withdraw at any time.
  3. The mediator has no power to impose an agreement.
  4. It is not about finding guilty or victims. Neither who is right and who is not.
  5. Everything stated during the course of the mediation is confidential.
  6. Mediation is a learning process. The mediator is an educator who guides the parties to find the best possible solution to their problems.
  7. The basic pillar of the process is communication. Restore it, channel it and educate it. It is the basic tool on which the process is based.

The mediation process and the role of the mediator

For Linda R. Singer, Director of the Washington Center for Dispute Resolution, the mediation process has six basic stages:

  1. First interviews and contacts between the mediator and each of the parties in conflict. In this first stage the protagonists, the people or organizations related to the conflict are identified.
  2. Establishment of the general lines that will guide the conflict. In addition, information is provided on the mediation process and active participation in it is encouraged. The thematic area of ​​the conflict is determined and an assessment is made to assess whether it is susceptible to be addressed through mediation.
  3. Compilation of the information and identification of the points to resolve according to an agenda. The main objective is to gather all the information related to the conflict and the perception that each of the parties has about it. The data collection can be through the interviews themselves or visits by the mediator to the community or institution.
  4. Sharing and development of the different possible alternatives to solve each point. In this phase the mediator takes on a special relevance and acquires a more active role. It is in charge of identifying common points and maximizing the opportunities and points of agreement that the parties have.
  5. The mediator encourages the parties to reach an agreement or constructive management of the situation, it is a time oriented to action and consensus. A list of topics is prepared based on the critical points detected during the previous phases. The parties @nalyze these critical issues in a common way and propose, jointly, solutions for each of the points. Finally, they evaluate and select from the proposals those that both parties understand as adequate and satisfactory.
  6. Conclusion of a global or partial agreement on the core of the conflict and preparation of the necessary plan for the execution, control and ratification of said agreement. The agreement document is the only document that is derived from the negotiation. It must be written clearly and concretely, specifying the who, what, where and how of the action plan.

In order to transform the situation of conflict, the mediator must be a corrector, a support and a reinforcement that pushes the parties to function as equals. It carries out a task of restructuring the communication process and weaves a fair and balanced system for decision making.

The mediator listens to each of the parties and helps them communicate. It identifies what the underlying needs and interests are and prevents the parties from focusing on fixed positions that prevent them from reaching a common agreement. It will also clarify areas of interest and specific problems, separating people from problems. It will highlight points of agreement, common principles and values.

Types of conflicts

There are several theories about conflict that classify them into different types based on their origin:

  1. Conflicts of values, religious, ethnic, etc.
  2. Information conflicts. When you have different information about the same situation.
  3. Conflicts of interests. Each protagonist looks for incompatible interests.
  4. Relational conflicts They focus on the malaise that is generated within the relational dynamics between the parties involved.

Areas of application

Although in this article we are going to focus on community mediation, there are also several areas of intervention. In the family context, in the educational field, within a company or organization, in the field of civic life, in the judicial context, in international or intercultural politics.

Each of these contexts are susceptible to the application of mediation to resolve conflicts that may arise. In each case it will be necessary to @nalyze if this process is the most appropriate, bearing in mind that each of the mentioned contexts have particular characteristics and therefore the mediation process will be different in each one of them.

Community mediation

From the perspective of mediation, a community can be defined as a group of human beings that share a common set of elements. Within the community, a shared identity is usually created by differentiating it from other groups or communities.

Some of the characteristics that define the concept of community are: the existence of a physical space or territory, the set of people that live in that territory and the feeling and consciousness of belonging that the members of the community have.

The mediation applied to the community sphere has special and differentiating characteristics. In the first place there are many parties or individuals involved: members of a community, a collective, an association or ethnic group, etc.

Generally, the parties involved maintain a continuous contact relationship over time and conflicts of varying complexity and importance exist between them. And finally, the agreement is not in itself the end of mediation, but the process is the most important to the extent that makes reflect and reflect on the parties about their own attitudes and others.

Main objectives of community mediation

  1. Improve communication, mutual understanding and empathy among the members of the community (people, groups, associations, etc.)
  2. Train members of the community with basic skills and techniques of negotiation and conflict resolution.
  3. Offer a space where the members of the community involved in a conflict or disagreement have the opportunity to work together on their resolution.
  4. Offer information about resources that will allow the parties in conflict to make their own decisions and apply their own solutions.

Functions of community medication

The intervention can be carried out at three levels, depending on the state in which the conflict is located:

1- Mediation and latent conflict: preventive function

The work of the mediation services in these cases is aimed at preventing the manifestation of the conflict and its violent development, promoting different activities at the community and institutional level.

2- Mediation and manifest conflict: conflict management, dispute resolution and improvement of relationships

In this case, the work is the management and resolution of the conflict, negotiation and achievement of an agreement or beyond the agreement, the non-violent acceptance of differences and the improvement of relations. The main tasks to be developed are:

  1. If there are conflicts between two groups or identified parties, the first thing is to contrast with them the information that is available.
  2. Carry out individual interviews with the parties or groups to approach positions and focus on the problem.
  3. Once the conflict, needs and possible solutions are organized, joint meetings are held to carry out the negotiation process and search for solutions that satisfy both parties.
  4. Periodic follow-ups are established to assess compliance with the agreement.

3- Mediation after the conflict: the restoration of relationships

In this phase, a reconciliation and restoration function of the damaged relationships in the conflict is carried out.

Types of community mediation

Community mediation can be classified into different types depending on the criteria that define it:

  1. Depending on the beginning of the process : it can be through a direct request from the population, through a third party or intermediary and finally it can be a project offered by public, municipal or community institutions.
  2. Depending on the time or duration of the project : long-term, limited-time or medium-term and finally as specific interventions on the community.
  3. According to the link established with the community : advice or participation in the design of community strategies. Coordination with those who intervene and work with the community. Or doing a direct job with the population subject of the mediation.
  4. Depending on the insertion of the mediator : from a public organization, from a private one, from the liberal exercise of the profession or mixed situations that integrate the previous ones.
  5. According to the planning model in which the mediator is included : throughout the process, in the diagnostic phase of the conflict, in the negotiation process itself or in the evaluation.
  6. And finally, according to the sphere in which the intervention takes place : formal organizations, community organizations or both.

Benefits of community mediation

Community mediation has several benefits for people in conflict:

  1. It contributes to the formation of a citizen behavior based on participation, solidarity and mutual respect.
  2. It incorporates the conviction that people can be an active party in the resolution of conflicts, stimulating the joint action of the neighbors to solve various problems that arise in their own community.
  3. It allows to reach satisfactory agreements for all the parties involved.
  4. Creates a situation of dialogue that remains beyond the concrete conflict.
  5. It allows the early detection of social conflicts.

Limitations of mediation

Unlike judicial processes, the agreements reached after the mediation process do not serve as a guide for other similar cases, do not establish jurisprudence or punish offenders of the law.

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Also, keep in mind that mediation is not always possible. The Washington Center for Dispute Resolution developed a series of rules that include cases in which it is not convenient to use mediation to resolve conflicts:

  • If either party does not show sufficient interest in the process, it boycotts or hinders it.
  • If necessary, set a legal precedent.
  • If the conduct of the parties is discovered some behavior outside the law that requires a penalty.
  • If any of the participants can not negotiate effectively on their own or with the assistance of a lawyer.
  • If any of the parties needs to prove the truth of the facts that interest the process.