In today’s challenging environment, no one wants a costly business dispute taking their time and attention away from keeping their business operating. Worse would be litigation, which can be expensive, time-consuming and uncertain.
One way to resolve business disputes with less hassle and cost may be to go through mediation. This is an out-of-court dispute resolution process involving a neutral third party called a mediator. The mediator is not a judge but more of a facilitator. Their job is to help you set goals, communicate effectively and develop a resolution both parties can live with.
An important thing to understand about mediation is that you don’t lose your rights or advantages by trying it. If you don’t come to a resolution, you can still try another method such as litigation. Mediation is confidential, so nothing you reveal during the process can be used against you in court later.
Here are some tips for using mediation to resolve a business dispute:
1. Be familiar with the process. For example, be aware that mediation often moves quickly, so you should bring all necessary documentation with you to the first session.
2. Identify your goals. Are there relationships you would like to maintain? Money you need to have returned? What would realistically solve the dispute for you?
3. Make sure the participants have enough authority to resolve the dispute. Mediation only works when the people involved are empowered to make decisions involving creative, outside-the-box situations. It’s not enough to send your lawyer or a low-level employee.
4. Both sides should be ready to brainstorm. This is a basic function of mediation. Each side explains what it would take to resolve the situation, in their view. Then, they discuss their goals and values and brainstorm creative solutions. There’s no time for power games.
5. Be creative. If none of the obvious solutions are acceptable to the other party, you may need something different. You can present evidence and bring in experts, if necessary.
6. Be ready to listen. Mediation starts with listening. The other side has reasons for their refusal to solve the dispute on your terms. If you don’t understand something, ask questions so you understand the other side’s perspective.
7. Tackle all the issues, even if they seem unrelated. If you leave issues unresolved, they could rise again. This could prevent you from enjoying a long-term relationship with the other side.
8. Neither party should feel they have lost. A mediated solution is a shared solution that both parties can live with. Mediation is voluntary and results in a contract. The main goal is not to have an enforceable contract, however, but one that both sides will honor.