Mediation is a useful process for just about any type of dispute, but different issues and relationships warrant different approaches to mediation. Even within the practice of mediating divorce and custody issues, there are various styles that may work best, depending upon the issues and personal relationships involved.
Often, parties come to mediation with very high emotions. The pain, anger and sadness may still be fresh. Sometimes before any progress can be made, a person may simply need the opportunity to express the emotions they are feeling-to feel that they have been heard. Once they have had that opportunity, they can focus on the actual issues that need to be addressed.
Other parties may have moved beyond the raw emotions, but have a hard time seeing the disputed issues from the other person’s perspective. When each side believes that their view of a problem is the only way to see it, they are not likely to reach a mutually agreeable solution. In these instances, reframing the issue helps the parties see things from a different perspective.
Some parties aren’t even that far apart in their positions, they are just overwhelmed at the sheer number of decisions to be made, and don’t know where to begin.
Each of these dynamics will benefit from different approaches to mediation. It is important for the mediator to understand the dynamic between the parties and determine the appropriate type of mediation techniques to apply, given not only the actual disputed issues, but the emotions and perceptions each party brings to the table.