Common Misconceptions About Mediation

Finger Trap Puzzle

Have you ever been caught in a finger trap puzzle? It begins when two people put an index finger in opposite ends of the puzzle. The trick is to get out!! The initial reaction is to pull your fingers outward, but this only tightens the trap. The way to escape the trap is to push the ends toward the middle, which enlarges the openings and frees the fingers. Mediation [like the finger trap puzzle] is about coming together to open your options and free yourselves of the conflict in your relationship. It is a process in which you and the other party discuss your disputes with the assistance of a trained impartial third person know as a mediator.

Who is this trained impartial third person [mediator] in the middle of our relatonship?

The mediator is a person with patience, persistence and common sense. She/he has an arsenal of negotiation techniques, human dynamics skills and powers of effective listening, articulation and restatement. The mediator is a facilitator who assists you in reaching solutions through conversation and documentation in a settlement agreement.

The Maryland People’s Law Library ( tackles some commonly held misconceptions about the mediation process.

I’ll be pushed into compromising or agreeing to something that is not in my best interest.

A professional mediator will keep you on task and help you consider many options, possibly even ones you hadn’t thought about. He or she will help you search for win-win solutions, and will not pressure you to accept something you don’t want. Assuming the mediation is voluntary rather than court ordered, you can stop the process at any time and return to the adversarial process if you wish.

Without my own counsel there to advise me, I won’t be able to manage.

There is always an opportunity, actually encouragement, to consult with counsel or other experts between sessions and to bring that knowledge to the next session There are also hundreds of books and articles on children and divorce, legal rights, and financial matters.

The sessions will deteriorate into mudslinging and rehashing old arguments.

There will be some conflict in the mediation (otherwise you’d still be together). However, a competent mediator will not allow name-calling or abusive behavior. Blaming and counter blaming will be redirected back to the task at hand and focused on the future.

The other side is so unreasonable we would never get anywhere.

As a neutral party, the mediator asks questions aimed at defining the concerns underneath the positions staked-out. You may also be surprised are how civilized your partner’s behavior is with the third-party mediator present, compared to interactions outside of the mediation sessions.

Thanks, Monette

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