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Mediation As Alternative Dispute Resolution

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You Can’t Avoid Conflict, So Deal With It

Like death and taxes, conflict between family members with co-ownership of a family business or substantial wealth is a certainty.  When you acknowledge this, you can take action to establish procedures for how you’ll resolve differences.  Most people interpret conflict as being bad because what can arise out of unresolved conflict are damaged relationships, hurt feelings, and emotions that are stressful such as anxiety, fear, and sadness.  However, if we accept conflict simply for what it is defined to be – merely opposing views or opinions about a matter, we can make the choice to resolve our differences in a manner that feels like a fair process even if we don’t get everything we want at the end of the day.

The Mediation Process

Mediation can either be voluntary or directed by the courts before going into litigation.  During mediation, a neutral third party acts as a facilitator during the process.  At the start, each party is given an opportunity to state their side of the story and what they are seeking in order to resolve the dispute. Because the situation is contentious going in (or you wouldn’t be in mediation) having a neutral person manage the exchange can be helpful so that people aren’t talking over one another and the focus remains on finding solutions rather than digging into positions.  Disputes naturally trigger emotions of threat that can cloud rational thinking and sound judgement; mediators are trained to navigate this to help both parties keep the conversation as productive and amicable as possible.  The mediator does not take sides, does not determine the facts, and does not make a final judgement.  The mediator’s job is to support all disputing parties by clarifying the issues and each party’s interests, encourage finding common ground through brainstorming of options as potential solutions, and help the parties evaluate those options that would be satisfactory enough to move to a written agreement.


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