Find the Space for Shuttle Mediation
BY ANDY ROGERS
Is there one correct way to conduct a mediation? Maybe not, as different conflicts, situations and participants require an individual approach. Each and every mediator also has their own toolkit. Andy Rogers from CEDR firmly believes in this go to strategy: “There is a method most likely to break deadlock in a commercial dispute and that is by using private meetings or ‘shuttle mediation’.” What is your favourite mediation technique to turn a conflict around?
There is no one right way of Mediating. In CEDR’s experience however there is a method most likely to break deadlock in a commercial dispute and that is by using private meetings or ‘shuttle mediation’ as it is sometimes called. In the 100,000s of mediations CEDR has conducted using this methodology has produced settlements and this is why CEDR is well known for teaching delegates how to conduct private meetings as part of its accreditation.
So, do you have to use private meetings and when?
There is no set formula, mediations may comprise anything from a continuous joint meeting to a series of private sessions with the parties never meeting. The reality is that normally it is a mixture of both based on what is working, but the balance needs to be judged according to the parties’ approach to the dispute and each other, and not because of a mediator’s own preferences or fears about working in one or other way. The use of private meetings is an important tool in the Mediator’s toolkit but Mediators should weigh the potential advantages and disadvantages when deciding when to work in joint or private session.
To be clear, CEDR believes it is usually better to start a mediation with everyone together to enable rules and tone to be set and an agenda to be formed based on what the parties have said is important for them. How long this session runs depends probably on how well the parties are getting on together but sometimes relations are so bad no joint meeting is possible.
Mediators should be prepared to give the parties choice over meeting jointly or privately whilst retaining overall responsibility for the process. A typical example is a party might be resistant to meeting an opponent in a joint meeting because of the difficult history of the dispute. The mediator might encourage the party that this might present an opportunity for progress, and by promising a clear purpose and structure and tight chairing of the meeting. Ultimately, it is for the parties to agree to such a meeting, and not for the mediator to insist.