Monthly Archives: February 2014

Understanding Mediation, Part I: Roots

As must be immediately apparent, the word “mediator” and “immediately” have a common root: medius, meaning “middle.”  To speak of something as “immediate,” is to say that there is no intermediary or intervening member, medium, or agent, that there is actual contact or direct personal relation. Mediation involves a mediator or intermediary and, consequently, at its core, is antithetical to the concept of immediacy.  That, I contend, is why it works.

Mediation is, quite literally, the process of bringing people together by keeping them apart.  In the context of legal disputes, the parties involved have demonstrated an inability to communicate effectively so as to resolve issues between them.  This is hardly surprising since the word communicate derives from the Latin communicare, meaning “to make common.”  The parties, to their own detriment, have been unable to work together to achieve their common good.  One of the principal tasks of the mediator is to create an environment in which the parties can work independently to achieve the common good by removing from the negotiation process the interference of dysfunctional communication.

In this context, the mediator acts as a conduit and translator actively listening to the desires and concerns of each party and, free from issues of ego, personality, or self-interest, transmitting clear and effective messages.  The need only – indeed, should only – transmit across a narrow band in order to be effective.  The static of past wrongs and misunderstandings must be systematically screened out to produce a sanitized, but effective, message with a focused purpose: to resolve the dispute.  The direct personal interaction which has engendered the dispute is filtered through the mediator, leaving only the residue of addressable concerns.