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  • Writer's pictureEd Johnson

Apply pressure or use influence in mediation?

With the continued backlog of cases mediation is even more so now than ever the best choice to find a resolution for your dispute. Get your dispute resolved now while you can’t go anywhere you can really concentrate on what’s important and what deserves your time and energy.


Northwest Mediation continues to use Zoom, Skype and FaceTime as well as the phone and emails to resolve disputes should we add we also do live in person mediation too! So please do not feel that you cannot contact us if you would like to mediate but wish to do so remotely.


It’s my birthday this week (it’s the day after as I type this) not a big number, but one is coming! It’s also the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, I can remember as a kid not really understanding the troubles (and I don’t confess to any deep understanding now) but I remember being excited that peace had been achieved in part of my country where war had seemed to be going on for as long as I could remember. In part of his discussions about President Biden’s visit to Ireland former PM Tony Blair made an interesting point that leaders must ensure that influence is not turned into pressure and that the line between the two is a fine one.


We use influence as mediators of course and we remain live to the risk of this turning into pressure, do we “make” a couple agree to something, of course not, but we can influence what they focus on to help them find a way forward.


Influence and pressure are also common techniques that the parties use during mediation to try to achieve their desired outcome. However, as mediators we have to make sure that this is always appropriate and filter and rebuff as necessary overuse of pressure can undermine the effectiveness of the mediation process, while influence can be a helpful tool.

Pressure often involves using threats, ultimatums or other forms of coercion to force a party to concede and whilst the threat of court costs, other party’s actions or external forces may be real the pressure has to be tempered to allow the process to continue. Pressure can be explicit or implicit and may include threats to take legal action, damage a party's reputation, or withhold resources. In mediation, the use of pressure can create an adversarial environment, which can make it difficult for parties to communicate effectively and find common ground but it can be used for reality checking as well.

To avoid the negative effects of pressure in mediation it’s always best for the parties and the mediator to focus on using influence to achieve a positive outcome for all involved. This may involve being prepared with strong arguments, presenting evidence or data to support a party’s position, and always actively listening to the other party's perspective.


Seeking to influence not to pressure this week we have the North Carolina Supreme Court. The new legislation amends the 5 sets of rules for mediation including how conferences work, a standard of professional conduct to avoid discrimination (how was this not already part of the rules?!?!?) and how the rules vary and are dealt with in different jurisdiction and types of court (family and civil).

(interesting that Wix suggests me a German rule book for this topic!)


The various links are for professional standards, settlement conferences and supreme court matters, district court family matters (finance), matters before the clerk of the senior court, criminal matters, and my favourite farm nuisance matters.


Excellent progress to see such detailed rules being set out but don’t forget flexibility is key in mediation.


Seeking to influence the outcome of mediation might be something that AI does in the future, in this article James Melamed suggests that where we seek to optimize solutions and outcomes for our clients it may be that AI can step in or be pushed in to help out on this. As ever the warning is over-reliance on an AI which doesn’t recognise the interplay of feelings in mediation, even the positronic brain of Star Trek’s Data struggled with feelings (and took 6 initial series several films, 2 deaths, 3 spin off series and an amalgamation of two other AI androids to enable him to achieve emotion) and whilst I can see AI being helpful in this job (after all this week’s intro got its base format from Chat GPT) I remain dubious about the assistance AI brings to the table in terms of helping clients accept the possible outcomes and risks other than in quite a clinical fashion.


But maybe I am getting too long in the tooth. I’ll be happy to work with AI to produce possible options but really that’s what our stock in trade is, to know the options, if both parties simply ask AI what the outcome will be they won’t get the same answer as the output is influenced by the input, but let’s see what the next 50 years brings.


Mike Lewinski talks this week about the way in which business owners thinks and how that influences their decisions, and how understanding those thought processes is vital for mediators. As a business owner of mixed successes highs and lows I know the pressures on directors and can recognise the underlying stresses and often discuss these with clients (in confidence) when talking about the challenges of reaching a settlement.

Mike adds that some people don’t go through deep thought processes and simply act on intuition (particularly if it’s worked for them in the past) others need to think things through and knowing the difference and recognising the different approaches needed becomes part of your arsenal in mediation.


It’s a good read and a reminder that some people have ethics as their driving force not cash!


Working out that one party will not move because they feel it is “wrong” and another won’t because they feel it is financially detrimental can be the difference between deadlock and success. As ever in mediation it’s active listening which will help you understand where each client is coming from and how far they can be pressured or influenced into a new position or understanding the other side’s position to thereby achieve settlement.


The three pillars of mediation remain it’s voluntary (except apparently when it won’t be anymore), it’s confidential, the mediator is independent, by using those pillars to support your work the parties keep control, save costs, save time and energy and reduce stress. Finally this one is mediation, mediator jointly appointed, areas of discussion agreed and intention to be bound by the outcome.


In person or via electronic media as we’ve said before choose to mediate early and resolve your issues effectively, timeously, and with less stress and costs than going to your solicitor so you can get out choose a different path, not quite the road less travelled but perhaps the path less adversarial. You have an interest in the outcome the sooner you get round the mediation table the quicker you can move forward and avoid the grilling a cross examination in court would put you through.


By having a deep and meaningful discussions with parties the mediator elicits what the true “red-lines” are and where there is the potential for compromise, it is with this structured period of reflection that the parties are then able to reach an accord.


The flexible nature of mediation and the possible outcomes make it an ideal way to resolve disputes in an ever-changing world and the open nature of discussions in mediation whilst remaining confidential allows all sides to engage fully in the process and understand the needs of all involved allowing parties to reach a conclusion which both sides can live with and move on.


There are so many situations which could have been resolved by early intervention of mediation it continues to surprise me the lengths the public will go to avoid referral.


Whether you need a mediator to help out with a construction matter in the Northwest, or council’s plans in Cheshire, a civil mediator in London, a commercial mediator in Manchester, a dispute resolution for your family in Liverpool, a neighbourhood mediation in Stockport, then our mediators at Northwest Mediation can help.


Mediation is cheaper, quicker and less stressful than running any case to court, it can help with any dispute whether it's an employment issue or the sale at an under value of a property, a fight with a neighbour, family issues, commercial disputes, civil mediation or inheritance, wills and probate arguments contact me at Northwest Mediation on 0161 667 4418 or via email at ed.johnson@northwestmediation.co.uk

neighbour mediation; commercial dispute resolution; civil mediation; commercial dispute; corporate dispute; commercial mediator; family mediation; inheritance wills probate mediation; property mediator; civil mediator; civil litigation; fast track mediation; injury mediation


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