One may simply say that mediation is a way for a person to help two other people to “settle their problem.” But mediation always seems to require more discussion to fully understand. In fact, it is fair to say that the only way one can truly understand mediation is to go through a number of mediation sessions in different categories of disputes to fully grasp the process.

For example: What is this third party (mediator)? What is the mediator’s training and role in the process? What are the rules the participants should expect from the process and the mediator? What specific power does the mediator possess? What does “help” the other parties really mean? How does the mediator get results? Just when a question about mediation is addressed, another one seems to come up, but a good way to start is with a definition for mediation and a statement of the role of a mediator.

Definition: Mediation is the intervention of a neutral party into a dispute or impassed negotiation. This neutral and impartial third party has no authority to decide or pressure recommended settlement terms on the parties. This neutral (mediator) manages the negotiators to autonomously witness their efforts to self settlement. The mediator will use a process that makes it easier for the negotiators to communicate, understand, trust, accept, make defensible decisions, and hopefully self design their mutually acceptable agreement. Thus, the combination of the mediator and the process is to makeeasierfor the parties tonegotiatetheir futurebehavior or commitment of resources that acceptably settles their problem.

Role: The role of the mediator is to be in charge of the process that takes parties through self determining consensus building steps or dispute design settlement steps. This ritual supports the parties to develop a reasonable and functional relationship for effective communication, improve the understanding and trust of each other and introduced information, improve accepting each other and contributed information, reduce dysfunctional contributions by a party, and improve the likelihood of the parties making decisions that develop movement toward settlement. The mediator is attempting to make easy for the negotiators to engage in as much of the complete process as is possible without the mediator performing these steps or introducing creativity for the negotiators. The mediator may offer understandings, discomforts, or ideas for the negotiators to examine, but the negotiators are to fully own, verify, and value any adopted ideas introduced by the mediator. The mediator is also guided by a code of ethics that will help form this role. The mediator following this role will foster the negotiators to make independent decisions and improve the prospects for self settlement as they see fit. This ritual generally enhances the probability of a speedy and low cost implementation of their settlement terms.

The mediator needs talent, knowledge and skills in negotiation, people skills, nature of conflict, facilitation, dispute design systems, and the mediation process. Knowledge of the subject matter in dispute is also valuable in guiding the mediator. All of these topics are intermingled in most initial training or background for mediators, but generally, mediators need continual education and experience to begin to master the basics of these topics.

Creditor Notice to Farmer of Right to Request Mediation (form)

For more information contact:

Jack Bell

Jack Bell, Farm Mediation Coordinator