As mediators, we often wonder how to spread the word about mediation — both as a way of helping those in conflict, and as a way of drumming up business. I have often wondered, however, how often we recommend mediation to our friends and acquaintances when things are going awry in their lives. Surely, in everyone’s life there is conflict, and often that conflict is difficult to handle on one’s own. So, why aren’t we recommending mediation to our friends and acquaintances?
One reason, I believe, is that many mediators have a limited view of mediation. Mediators may recommend mediation in certain established contexts such as in a divorce situation or when a case is in litigation; yet, does anyone recommend mediation for couples who are fighting about issues at home but do not want a divorce; parents who are having disagreements with their children; adult siblings who are arguing about the care of their aging parents; disagreements with co-workers, business associates, neighbors or friends?
These are all situations which can be mediated and will often produce successful results. Yet, if even mediators do not recognize this, how can we expect the public to do so?
I propose that we each resolve to consider recommending mediation to our friends, acquaintances and business associates whenever we hear about difficulties, disagreements or conflicts that appear to be intractable. Mediators might consider developing a list of mediators who they feel are skilled in different types of mediation. Some mediators may be skilled in facilitative or transformative mediation which may be applicable to any type of conflict that does not require that the mediator provide information to parties. Other mediators may be trained to provide a type of service which combines mediation with subject matter knowledge, guidance and information. For disputes which primarily center around human relationships, mediators might recommend mediators who are highly skilled in facilitative or transformative mediation. Mediators might take pains to inform the mediation community of their training, experience and expertise in order to distinguish themselves in the particular areas in which they feel skilled.
Change must start within the mediation community.