Being a prepared participant for mediation is not difficult -- but the failure to be prepared can drag your voice and the voice of others right down the rabbit hole.
A common misconception:
"We know the issue so well, and have been over it so many times, that there just isn't anything to prepare."
While there is truth in the fact that participants know their issue well (and know the parties various historic stances) it is not true that you needn't prepare.
Our workplace mediations always begin with the parties defining the issue and writing a statement that best describes it. Easy? Nope. Often participants discover that much of what they believe the issue is about is not shared by by others.
We strongly recommend that each party meet separately beforehand and outline the problem, as they see it. And that they write the problem in a statement form. Don't attempt the solution, leave out your desired outcomes -- just state the problem. Even among participants on "one side of the issue" you will find varying points of view about what the concern is.
Arriving at the mediation with your team's written problem statement benefits you tremendously. It solidifies how you and your party view the purpose of the mediation.
Next, the mediator matches up your problem statement with that of the other party or parties. Having a mutually agreed upon problem statement gets the mediation on the right track quickly and with efficiency. And it narrows the scope of the discussions to assure productive outcomes.
I have seen a great deal of the contention between parties melt away during this "problem statement" part of the meeting. "You mean we don't disagree about this?" It happens.
Thornton Mason is a national dispute resolution consultant and human relations mediator with 25 years of experience resolving over 1200 employee matters. His 60 Second Updates have a current reach of over 750,000 readers. He and Mediation Resolves focus on eliminating formal employee complaints, avoiding internal relationship disputes, preventing grievance backlogs, and restarting stalled labor negotiations.