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How to make mediation work?

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So you’ve decided to give mediation a shot to resolve some disputes with your ex. Good for you—that’s a mature and wise choice that will benefit you both in the long run. But how do you make sure the mediation process actually works?

How can you come out the other end with an agreement you’re both satisfied with? The key is really all in the approach. You need to go in with realistic expectations about what mediation can achieve. You need to be willing to communicate openly and honestly. And you need to stay focused on the big picture rather than getting bogged down in petty grievances.

If you can do all that, mediation absolutely can work.

It may not be easy, but with time and patience, you can get to a place of mutual understanding and find solutions you can both live with. Stay positive, keep an open mind, and go into it aiming for a win-win. That’s the mindset that will make mediation work for you.

Prepare for Mediation

To have a successful mediation, you need to do your homework.

First, gather all the necessary financial documents like tax returns, bank statements, retirement account info, insurance policies, and anything else relevant to your shared assets and debts. The more details you can provide, the better.

Next, think about your needs and priorities. What’s most important to you – the house, custody schedule, retirement funds? Be willing to compromise on lesser concerns.

Anticipate solutions

Also, try to anticipate possible solutions and options to propose. Come with an open mind, but having some ideas will make you feel more in control.

Then, clarify your goals. Do you want to preserve your relationship? Protect the kids? Get it over with as quickly as possible? Your goals will shape how you approach mediation.

Prepare your emotions

Finally, prepare for the emotional aspects. Mediation can bring up feelings of hurt, anger, sadness, and resentment. Take time to process those feelings before you sit down together. Try journaling, talking to others, meditating – whatever helps you feel centered.

With diligent preparation, you’ll feel empowered and confident going into mediation. That positive mindset can make all the difference in finding a resolution that you can both live with. The work you do beforehand will help pave the way for a cooperative conversation.

Set Realistic Expectations

Going through a divorce is tough, there’s no doubt about it. But mediation can help make the process a little easier. Still, you need to be realistic about what to expect.

Communication will be challenging

Don’t expect mediation to be easy just because you’re in a controlled environment. Talking about the end of your marriage and how to divide assets is difficult, no matter what. But stick with it – the hard conversations are the most important ones.

  • Stay calm and respectful, even when emotions run high. Take a timeout if needed.
  • Focus on interests, not positions. Compromise when you can.
  • Listen with an open mind. Try to understand different perspectives.

There will be ups and downs

Some days will feel like progress, other days you’ll leave frustrated. That’s normal. Don’t get discouraged if you hit roadblocks. With time and patience, you can work through them.

  • Give yourself space after difficult meetings. Do self-care and lean on your support network.
  • Come back to the table with an open and willing attitude. Meetings will go smoother.
  • Look at the big picture. Remember why you chose mediation and stay committed to the process.

If you go in with realistic expectations about what mediation will involve, you’ll be better equipped to handle challenges. Stay focused on the goal, keep communication open, and maintain a solution-focused mindset. With hard work and perseverance, you can make mediation work for you.

Communicate Openly and Respectfully

To make mediation work, communication is key. Speak openly and honestly with the other party, but do so respectfully.

Listen Actively

Listen carefully to what the other person is saying. Make eye contact, pay attention to their body language, and try to understand their perspective and concerns. Ask clarifying questions to make sure you comprehend their point of view fully before responding.

Focus on Interests, Not Positions

Rather than stating positions or demands, express your underlying interests and priorities. Try to uncover the other party’s interests as well. Look for common ground and areas of mutual benefit. Compromise when possible.

Suggest Options

Propose multiple options for resolving issues, not just what you want. The more options on the table, the more likely an acceptable solution for everyone can be found. Be open to options suggested by the other party as well.

Through open, honest and respectful communication, mediation has a much better chance of success. Compromise and finding common ground are the goals, not proving a point or defeating the other side. Make an effort to understand different perspectives, focus on shared interests, and suggest constructive options. With the right mindset and approach, mediation can work.

Use non-confrontational language

When mediating a divorce, using non-confrontational language is key to keeping emotions in check and making progress.

Speak in “I” statements

Say “I feel” or “I perceive” instead of accusing “you”. This helps both parties feel heard without getting defensive. For example, say “I feel frustrated about the lack of communication” rather than “You never call me back.” Focus on how their actions impacted you, not their character.

Avoid criticism and judgment

Name-calling, insults and criticism will only damage trust and escalate tensions. Instead, speak about specific behaviors and your feelings. Say “I feel upset when you don’t follow through on your commitments” rather than “You’re so irresponsible.” Criticism often says more about the speaker, so avoid it.

Stay calm and composed

Do not raise your voice, threaten or intimidate. Take deep breaths to stay calm. Yelling or aggression will likely make the other person defensive or prompt an aggressive response in kind. Remain polite yet confident in expressing your needs.

Use “we” and “us”

Referring to you both as a collective unit can help change perspectives to a more cooperative mindset. Say “we need to work together on this” or “how can we solve this problem” rather than “I need you to do this.” Focus on shared goals and interests. This inclusive language brings you together rather than highlights your differences.

Using non-confrontational language and communication techniques are instrumental to mediating disputes and navigating difficult conversations. With practice, you can master these skills and have meaningful discussions.

Seek to Understand

To make mediation work, listen actively and seek to understand the other person.

Listen without judgment

When the other person is speaking, focus on listening to understand their perspective rather than just replying. Don’t interrupt or argue. Nod, maintain eye contact and encourage them to share more details. Ask open-ended questions to clarify points and paraphrase what they said to confirm you understood them correctly.

  • Suspend judgment and criticism. Try to be empathetic.
  • Pay attention to their body language and tone of voice, not just their words.
  • Look for the emotion and meaning behind what they’re saying.

Look for common ground and compromise

As you come to better understand each other’s perspectives, look for areas of agreement and shared interests. Be willing to negotiate and compromise when possible to find solutions you’re both reasonably satisfied with.

While mediation can be difficult, maintaining an open mind and collaborative approach will increase the chances of a productive outcome. Focusing on listening, understanding and finding common ground are key to overcoming differences – even in the most challenging situations. With time and effort, you can work through the issues together.

Stay Solution-Focused and Flexible on the Route to get there

To make mediation work, you need to stay focused on solutions, not problems. Be flexible in how you get to a resolution, rather than rigid in your positions.

Compromise when you can. Look for common ground and areas of agreement to build upon. Be willing to listen to different options with an open mind. Stay calm and courteous, even if tensions rise. React in a constructive manner.


So there you have it, some tips to help make your mediation process as smooth and productive as possible.

Remember, go in with an open mind and flexible attitude. Focus on listening to understand rather than just reply. Be willing to compromise when possible. And keep the lines of communication open even outside of scheduled mediation meetings. If you approach mediation with empathy, honesty and a solutions-focused mindset, you’ll find the process much more helpful and effective.

Stay calm and patient, as mediation can be difficult. But with time and effort, you can work through challenging issues together and come out the other side with an agreement you both can accept.

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