There are three general stages of a conflict, and a mediator might offer different services at each stage.
- Latent conflicts are those that you might sense but not yet be fully aware of, especially if you have greater power in the relationship (e.g., you’re the boss, parent, or teacher). At this stage, you might benefit from guided self-inquiry, as I offer in my book, DIY Conflict Resolution: Seven Choices and Five Actions of a Master.
- Emerging disputes are characterized by awareness of both parties and some harsh verbal exchanges. Here, self-inquiry might help you define the conflict, identify the interests, play with the possibilities for resolution, and create the future in a more positive direction. If not, a mediator can facilitate the process
- Serious conflicts are those that were probably ignored and, not surprisingly, didn’t go away. They have erupted into litigation, non-violent action (e.g., protests, strikes, demonstrations), or violence. At this stage, a mediator can help parties remember they are humans dealing with other humans. The parties look deeply into themselves and the possibility that continued conflict may have unintended consequences and unnecessary casualties. Often calling on multiple parties involved at varying levels, a mediator of a serious conflict can lead discussions to end the instant disruption and change the culture that caused it.
NOTE: This post is a general overview of mediation. It is not legal advice, and there is certainly no guarantee that choosing mediation will generate a specific result. Past success is never a guarantee of a future outcome. If you require legal information or advice applied to your unique situation, please make an appointment to discuss it with an attorney. Don’t rely solely on what you read on the Internet.