“Conflict happens. It is inevitable. It is going to happen whenever you have people with different expectations”.
As humans we understand that conflict has always been a part of human interaction. In the ancient world and tribal societies the concept of an independent neutral working with conflicted parties was commonplace. The offering of ‘an olive branch’ as a ‘peace offering’ was widely recognised, the phrase having been assimilated into the modern vernacular . However, modern western society has been encouraged to rely on the prevailing legal system to solve disputes. So why then is there now an increasing shift towards mediation? Why is there a move towards the creation of a safe and sustainable environment within which to solve disputes rather than the formal, sometimes intimidating environment of the courtroom?
Society in general has been conditioned to rely on the legal system to support it in the event of a dispute. We are brought up with the concept of ‘our day in court’ and the ‘quest for justice’ However, the reality is that the legal system is focussed on ‘rights’ in determining the outcome of a dispute, this does not necessarily lead to ‘justice’. In addition to this, and on a more practical level, the increasing pressure on the Judiciary and the resulting inability of the courts to respond effectively to demand, coupled with the high cost of litigation, are changing peoples perceptions of court based dispute resolution.
Cases taken to court can take months and at the end of the process the relationship between the parties may be irrevocably damaged. The parties can be psychologically affected, with any possibility of communication between them broken down. There is, therefore, an increasing awareness that mediation offers an alternative option. Rather than entering into a legal process that is very expensive, time consuming and gives the power to an individual to make decisions that can negatively impact an entire life, why not enter a process which focusses on genuine communication rather than just identifying legal ‘rights’, and which aims to empower the parties to find a win-win solution for all involved.
Human beings need to feel they are being heard and listened to. Communication is often the first casualty in a dispute leading to entrenched views and an inability to discuss issues in a rational and unemotional way. The dispute begins to have a life of its own. The original causes often forgotten. Mediation represents the perfect opportunity to have an open conversation, to collaborate, move forward without resentment, communicate feelings, basic needs and wants and build a plan to repair the relationship. As a result of mediation, people are more willing to forgive and to act in a positive manner; it is a learning experience and the values it creates will continue to give humans the power to build a better world.