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Top 4 Reasons People Avoid Mediation, And How To Overcome Them

From Erica Becks’ Cure for the Common Conflict.

The idea of participating in mediation can seem a daunting undertaking for many. There are many barriers that people erect in their minds, which prevent them from seeking out mediation. With the proper information, however, anyone can overcome these obstacles to benefit from this truly valuable resource. And on that note, here are the top four reasons people avoid mediation:

1) FEAR – often there is a fear of facing the issue or the other party. In the case of divorce, the thought of ending a relationship can be very scary, especially if ending the relationship means that they will be alone and/or become a single parent. There can also be a fear of the unknown. Often parties have no idea what will take place, and they can conjure up various awful scenarios taking place, like the other party coercing them into giving up their assets, for example. One way for them to overcome fear, is talk about their concerns with their mediator, a friend or a family member. Often the process of airing their concerns, helps to alleviate some of their anxiety, and address the real source of the fear.

2) MISINFORMATION -when clients contact me they often have false conceptions about what mediation entails. I’ve had clients ask me everything from whether or not I would write a letter to the judge on their behalf, to whether or not mediation is a form of psychotherapy. Of course I always answer no to such questions. But the point of this, is to demonstrate that there is a lot of erroneous information floating around which serves to deter people from seeking out help. To overcome this, I always check in with my clients during the initial consultation to find out exactly what they know about the process, and whether or not they have any questions. I generally make an effort to be exhaustive in my descriptions of mediation, so that there is little room for misunderstanding. I also encourage them to do some research about mediation online to gain a more neutral perspective.

3) DENIAL -in the case of relational issues, often one party has a very clear understanding of what the concerns are, while the other party does not acknowledge the presence of any issues. Frequently, after being encouraged by one spouse, I have contacted the other spouse about participating in divorce mediation and they have responded with something like, ‘Oh we’re not getting a divorce”. Or “He/she doesn’t really mean it”. I try to avoid ‘convincing’ people to mediate, but I do attempt to allow them to arrive at their own conclusion as to whether nor not mediation is appropriate for them. Often, after a certain amount of time passes, and they have begun to see the issues for what they truly are, they contact me again.

4) COST- most of the people who contact me have little idea how much mediation truly costs. When I share with them the fees, understandably, they do not jump for joy. I generally explain to them that while mediation is not cheap, they are paying far less for mediation than they would if they chose to hire an attorney and take their dispute to court. Likewise, I also explain to them that the parties typically split the fees, which appears more manageable to them, then assuming the entire financial burden on their own. WORD OF ADVICE: One way to avoid high prices is to shop around or simply ask the mediator for a lower rate. Many mediators offer sliding scales or reduced fees, if a party simply relays their circumstances, they will often accomodate their needs.


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