When Is It Time To Bring In The Mediator?

by drjim on October 26, 2012

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Negotiators know that they can turn to a mediator to solve problems

Negotiators know that they can turn to a mediator to solve problems

I’d like to be able to tell you that there is nothing in this world that two negotiators can’t work out between themselves. I said that I’d like to be able to tell you this, but I can’t because it’s not true. The sad truth of the matter is that in certain circumstances, maybe it because of our different negotiation styles or negotiating techniques, we are just not able to see eye-to-eye with the other side of the table. When this happens, it may be time to bring in a mediator…

What Does A Mediator Do?

Mediators play two different roles in a negotiation. The first occurs during the actual negotiators themselves. A mediator can be brought in to bring together two sides who for whatever reasons because of what is being negotiated may not be able to come together without some outside help. The other role that they play occurs after the deal is done.

Negotiations consist of many different phases. During the implementation phase of a negotiation, after the deal has been signed and both parties are supposed to be working to make it happen, a mediator may be needed if one or more parties doesn’t think that the terms of the agreement are being lived up to. This happens so often that it really should be part of the negotiation definition.

The role that a mediator plays is to find a way to harmonize the differing viewpoints that are held by each side of the negotiation. The reason that you would bring in a mediator is because the alternative is much more messy – you’d have to take the other side to court.

How Do Mediators Help A Negotiation?

You may be asking yourself, so just exactly what do mediators do? That’s actually a very good question that does not have one specific answer. Instead, it runs out that mediators do a number of different things during the negotiation process depending on the situation that they find themselves in. Here are a few of the things that you could expect a mediator to do:

  • New Ideas: Pitch new ideas to each side of the negotiations. It turns out that each side may be more open to hearing about a new idea from a mediator than if the other party in the negotiation made the proposal for the new idea.
  • Realistic Suggestions: A mediator can help both sides to suggest what are considered to be realistic suggestions.
  • Come Back: Walking out of a negotiation is a fairly common tactic. However, after this has been done, it can be difficult to determine when you can return to the negotiating table. A mediator can be the person who invites you to return to the table.
  • Not Get Angry: a mediator can take the time to listen to what both sides of the table want in terms of some controversial topic without becoming angry or upset. Once the idea has been expressed the mediator can have an unemotional discussion with you about your position.
  • Compromise: a mediator can make suggestions to either side for ways that they can compromise in order to keep the discussions moving on without appearing to be weak.

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

As negotiators, we like to think that we can solve just about any situation. The reality is that sometimes we are not able to communicate clearly with the other side for a whole variety of different reasons. When this happens, it may be time to bring in a mediator.

A mediator serves as a go-between for the different negotiating parties. A mediator has the ability to help out both during the principled negotiation itself and afterwards during the implementation phase. Mediators accomplish their task by selling new ideas to both sides, listening, and showing where compromises can be made.

The ultimate goal of any negotiation is to reach a deal with the other side. Sometimes this can be just too difficult to do by ourselves. When we hit a wall and are not able to either start a negotiation or continue one, it may be time to bring in a mediator. If we judge the success of a negotiation by the deal that gets created, then using a mediator may just be what it takes to get us to where we want to be.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: What could you do or say that would make the other side of the table agreeable to bringing in a mediator to an ongoing negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

One of the most important questions that every negotiator needs to be considering during a negotiation is just exactly why the other side of the table is there. What are they really hoping to get out of the investment of time and energy that they are putting into this negotiation? Ultimately, they are looking to find satisfaction – or at least more satisfaction than dissatisfaction. How are you going to make that happen?

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