Some degree of conflict is an inevitable part of our normal interactions with other people, whether as neighbours, friends, or part of a community or group.
Mostly, we manage to sort things out, smooth it over well enough, or move on. But that’s not always possible and, if conflict is unresolved, it can be stressful and uncomfortable. It can impact on people’s enjoyment of life and affect their health and wellbeing, particularly where the problem can’t be avoided.
Just as we call on experts to help with many of life’s other problems – from home maintenance to health – mediators offer a set of skills which support people to resolve conflicts or disagreements when they have been unable to do so on their own. The use of mediation is on the rise in the UK, in all kinds of settings, as people have come to recognise its power and benefits.
As experienced interpersonal mediators, we bring adaptability, resilience and insight to our work. Our professional but warm approach helps to ensure that our mediation meetings are focussed and supportive, giving you the best chance of a positive, lasting outcome – and therefore value for money.
A brief guide to mediation
The following may help you to decide whether and when to use mediation to help you resolve community conflict.
You are very welcome to call us without obligation to discuss your situation. We are enthusiastic advocates of mediation but we won’t mediate if we feel it is not appropriate.
Mediation is an effective way of resolving conflict offering the possibility of an end to the stress, pain and disruption it causes. Mediation is not counselling or therapy but it does deal with human needs and emotions as well as practicalities. After mediation, many people comment on the helpfulness of a neutral third party in enabling people to listen and be heard, and to look to the future.
It can be used for conflicts between two individuals or between groups. Those involved don’t have to want to be ‘best friends’ (though some do want to restore a previously amicable relationship). All that is required is that those involved want to put an end to the conflict/complaint, are willing to give mediation a try, and are able to make decisions for themselves.
Even if you are considering resorting to the courts to sort out a conflict, it is worth trying mediation first as a more constructive, quicker and far cheaper option. Mediation can be organised quickly and can often improve or resolve things in a single meeting.
Mediation can address all kinds of issues over which neighbours, friends or groups fall out:
- noise or other disturbance,
- boundary disputes,
- problematic behaviour,
- the use of common space (e.g. for parking or playing),
- children or young people,
- lifestyle differences,
- ‘personality clashes’,
- bullying, harassment or discrimination allegations.
There are some circumstances in which mediation is not suitable. We always consider the background to a conflict and we won’t mediate if we feel it is not appropriate.
Conflict is a natural and inevitable part of human interaction. Things can often be sorted out one-to-one or with help from someone else, but there will be times when that doesn’t work.
Perhaps the issue has recurred or escalated, those involved can no longer talk to each other, other people are being drawn in, it’s difficult to get to the bottom of the problem, or there’s no single person that they can all trust to help sort things out. These are the kinds of circumstances when an independent mediator is very helpful.
Mediation is at its most effective when initial attempts to sort things out have failed and things are beginning to escalate or become entrenched, but it can help to achieve progress even in long-standing conflicts. It can work if there is a shared desire for change.
Mediation is an informal process in which a neutral third party helps people in conflict to have a structured conversation about the issues that are important to them, and to work out a mutually acceptable way forward.
Mediation’s underlying principles help to give participants confidence in it; it is:
- voluntary – so that everyone is there in good faith
- confidential – enabling openness and thereby insight
- impartial – so that participants feel they are being treated fairly
- neutral – so that participants trust that the mediator/s are not influenced by anyone else and have no preferred outcome.
The mediator’s role
A skilled mediator
- will listen, reflect back, ask questions, challenge where necessary, identify areas of agreement/ disagreement, encourage, ask for ideas, balance contributions, and maintain safety throughout.
- won’t force participation, take sides, make judgements, apportion blame, offer suggestions, make decisions for the participants, have a preferred outcome, force an agreement.
There is some flexibility in this, but a typical case would work as follows:
- Referral. We consider the background to the conflict, its suitability for mediation, and the logistics. If the referrer is a potential participant in mediation, we handle this stage with due care to ensure we remain impartial.
- We contact each potential participant to see if they wish to get involved.
- Arrangements made – date, time and venue.
- Introductory meeting: the mediator/s meet privately with each participant to explore the situation as they see it and what they want to achieve. The mediators will not repeat anything they are told in this meeting to the other participants.
- Joint mediation meeting: if everyone agrees, the participants come together in a structured meeting to discuss the issues and potential solutions. The mediators keep things constructive and record any points of agreement, including future actions.
- Post-mediation. The agreement is sent to participants. This is not a legal document but because everyone has helped to create it they tend to stick to it. We follow-up with the participants at agreed intervals to see how things are going.
The introductory meetings can take place either at your home or a venue close by. The joint mediation meeting always takes place in a neutral venue. We can help with finding suitable venues.
Costs vary depending on the circumstances and practicalities of the case, but we will agree a fixed fee with you at the outset. Our fees for a mediation involving two clients progressing to a joint mediation, start at £530 (£265/client). This covers set-up, 4 hours mediating time with two mediators, and follow-up. We don’t charge VAT. Venue costs are extra as well as longer-distance travel. We request payment in advance but in stages so that you only pay for what you receive.
We always mediate in pairs, unlike many other practices. We are skilled in co-mediating and believe that the abilities and energies of two mediators working effectively together give clients the best chance of a positive outcome.
Compare our fees to the costs of solicitors which are likely to be in excess of £200/hour. Our factsheet on mediation may help you to weigh up your options.
Taking the first step
Those caught up in conflict are sometimes reluctant to try mediation, perhaps because they feel things have gone too far or the other person won’t participate. Why not let us help with that? When people hear from someone neutral what mediation has to offer, they are often willing to give it a try. Please contact us to see whether we can help.