A while back a friend of mine recently told me how a barrister described the mediation process to him. He opined that it was a process of managing the parties’ expectations down to a point whereby each side was equally unhappy! I suppose at least there was the concept of equality in the solution but somehow I don’t think this quite does the process the justice it deserves.

Inevitably there is compromise involved. No mediation will ever succeed where ground is not to some extent given up. However, I firmly believe that mediation usually achieves an outcome somewhat better than shared misery! The very act of settling in an agreed manner and being able to move on is likely to generate a level of relief far in excess of a feeling of disappointment. Only those who have lived through the hell of a long-drawn out dispute can fully appreciate the sense of a burden being lifted when a settlement has been reached particularly if (as with a successful mediation) the outcome is genuinely by mutual agreement.

If you are a doubter and are predisposed to the “equally unhappy” argument I would urge you to think again. Mediation done properly is all about finding a way to go forward rather than to dwell on the grudges of the past. As Nelson Mandela famously said: “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” Mediation cannot promise this result on every occasion but there is more than just a ring of truth in this sentiment.