Mediation and Covid19 – What we can learn

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Time to read: 6 min

Summary – What can we learn in the time of Covid-19 that can be used in mediation? And what can we learn from mediation to be used in this crisis?

As you know, mediation is a way to solve conflicts in which the parties keep in their hands the possible solution. They do not need to come to a third party (judge or arbitrator) to impose the answer to them. Parties can imagine more freely what they need, and how to solve their differences.

Some of the elements and techniques mediators use in a mediation can also be used in and learnt from the current Time of Covid-19. And the current crisis also helps us to understand why they are so important in mediation.

Cooperation to get the solution is better than unilateral and imposed decisions

We usually tend to think that cooperation is a sign of weakness and that we recur to it only if we cannot impose or view or win our case. However, as in the time of Covid-19 where countries, scientists and people should fight together, when facing a conflict cooperation and going beyond your positions brings you the possibility to explore solutions that otherwise remain hidden.

« Now it is increasingly recognized that there are cooperative ways of negotiating our differences and that even if a “win-win” solution cannot be found, a wise agreement can still often be reached that is better for both sides than the alternative. […]

Three points about shared interests are worth remembering. First, shared interests lie latent in every negotiation. They may not be immediately obvious. Second, shared interests are opportunities, not godsends. Third, stressing your shared interests can make the negotiation smoother and more amicable. » [Fisher, Richard; Ury, William. “Getting to Yes: Negotiating an agreement without giving in”].

Listening is highly effective

In the time of Covid-19 we tend to accept better information that confirms our beliefs and we accept better indications that are in accordance with our preferences and beliefs. Nevertheless, also in this time, listening is of essential importance to understand the causes and solutions.

A mediator will always listen to the parties and will help them to do the same. Listening the other’s side arguments, its explanation of the facts, interests and needs, the reasons for its decisions… is also of utmost importance to find a joint solution.

«Whether you are a neutral third party (professional facilitator, friend, or manager) or one of the participants, as you listen to all the stories, you begin to sense the best solution. » [Levine, Stewart. “Getting to Resolution: Turning Conflict Into Collaboration.”]

A solution for me can also be a solution for you

In the time of Covid-19 it seems clear to all of us that a common solution is the only possible one. A vaccine will save the entire world. In mediation, the main benefit is to understand that, unlike a court judgement or arbitral award, a joint (not imposed) solution is possible and a benefit for me does not imply a damage or a lost for my opponent.

«A mediator works to understand each disputant’s perspective and to look for the value in it. In this role, you refrain from judging whose side is right or wrong. Instead, you try to see the merit in each side’s perspective. » [Shapiro, Daniel. “Building Agreement”].

We master the solution and we create the agreement in a safe environment

The solution to the current crisis does not only depend on the authorities and on the health professionals. A great part of the solution relies on everybody’s participation, washing our hands, respecting the social distance, staying safe at home avoiding contagion and the collapse of hospitals.

In court we leave the decision of the conflict in the hands of a third party –the judge, the arbitrator­–. In a mediation, on the contrary, the solution remains in our hands. We know what our interests are, we create our agreement. Our imagination is our ally in finding the solution together with the counterparty and the assistance and experience of the mediator who does not impose it but helps the parties to find it. Quite often, what parties could get in mediation goes far beyond what a judge would’ve been able to grant. And this in a confidential environment.

«The Sage is self-effacing and scanty of words. When his task is accomplished and things have been completed, all the people say, “We ourselves have achieved it!” » [Lao Tzu]

Emotions do matter

Good and bad emotions are inevitable. Particularly in periods of uncertainty, crisis and loose of control, we all face strong emotions. This is true in situations like this Covid-19 and in all conflicts, and not only in personal ones. Egos, envies, fears, anxieties… are also part of our day-to-day life, work and business, but they are rarely considered in courts when solving your conflicts. A mediator helps you to take them into account in a safe environment and as a part of the conflict itself.

«Solving problems seems easier than talking about emotions. The problem is that when feelings are at the heart of what’s going on, they are the business at hand and ignoring them is nearly impossible. » [Stone, Douglas. “Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most”].

Ignacio Alonso
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