Are you thinking of mediation but unsure if an on-line experience will be worthwhile? Don’t fret. Mediation has translated very well to the on-line environment. It is true your mediator cannot see your body language as well as in person, but they are able to see your facial expressions, hear your tone, and observe your demeanor. While you cannot get together, each person doesn’t have to fight traffic and can be comfortable in their own space. In some ways it is more intimate than in-person sessions as your share your private space in the background. You may be familiar with some digital tools already. For example, you may have used email, used FaceTime or Google Duo with family, or maybe even have had to electronically sign a document. Mediation is just another extension of the digital world. Here are six tips to ensure your experience is a good one.
1. Take advantage of free or low-cost consultations. These consultations are a great way to get to know the mediator, ask them questions about the process and how they operate, and assess if you can work with them. Many people report that they feel a sense of relief after this consultation and that is a good sign that the mediator is a good match for you.
2. Test your system ahead of time. Most mediators are happy to connect with you prior to the mediation session. It is best to try your system another day when you are not in a rush to get the connection working. However, even 30 minutes before can be helpful to ensure the video and audio connection are acceptable. You will need a good internet connection and a charged device. A laptop or tablet is better to use than a phone simply due to the size of the screen. It is more difficult to see the control buttons or other faces as easily when using a phone. However, if a phone is all you have, then you can make it work.
3. Limit session time. In-person mediations can be scheduled for the whole day. Most mediators are acknowledging that spending all day on a video mediation is exhausting. However, if not, ask your mediator if the sessions can be broken into smaller chunks of time. Sessions limited to two or three hours are ideal. The limited session time will provide a break from the conflict, time to digest parts of the conflict and solution, time to find information that may be needed, time to get advice or do homework. In addition, the smaller session length is easier to fit into busy schedules.
4. Have information accessible. Your mediator will have given you an agenda or at least the topic to be covered that session. There may be forms to fill out, documents to find, or appraisals to obtain in preparation for the mediation. Make sure you have that information available. If you know you cannot obtain the information timely, let the mediator know. It may be ok to proceed, but in some cases, it may make more sense to postpone the session.
5. Eat something before or have snacks ready. Conflict is stressful and decision making can be taxing. Your brain needs some energy to be in the best position to process all the information and make decisions. Eliminate hunger as an obstacle. Have your favorite easily grabbed snack available for you to munch if you need it.
6. Plan for kids or other residents in the house to be occupied. It’s okay to have your kids or parents at home, in fact that is one of the great benefits to on-line mediation. It’s great that you don’t have to drive back and forth. However, to be able to focus on the mediation, to honor confidentiality, and to limit the impact of the conflict on others, the mediation should be held out of earshot of the other household members.
On-line mediation has existed for a long time before the pandemic and remains a great way to resolve conflict in a more convenient and schedule friendly format. Many practitioners are planning to offer on-line mediations into the future and with these tips you may want to opt for on-line mediation now and in the future as well.
· Fowler, C. Melamed, J. Rule, C. Aurit, M. (09/14 - 09/25/2020) “Online Family Divorce Mediation Training”. Mediate.com.
· Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow. Penguin, 2012.