Pre-mediation is a vital part of the mediation process. Pre-mediation prepares the parties for the PULSE conversation by setting the purpose and establishing their roles in the mediation process. It is a meeting held by the mediator and the two disputing parties individually to prepare and set cardinal rules before bringing them together for the actual mediation process.
Pre-mediation is held before the actual mediation where the mediator (impartial third party) meets with each disputing party privately to give their side of the matter and discuss how the mediation process would be held and get their formal consent to mediate by signing the “Consent form”. This process requires for absolute impartiality on the part of the mediator. It is at this point that some would hold the view as to the impartiality of the mediator if they perceive any trait of prejudice either in speech or body language.
The view originates from the fact that when the mediator meets privately with the parties him/her upon hearing both parties may favour one party over the other.
It is at the pre-meeting that the mediator and the parties agrees on the level of confidentiality and authority for a successful resolution of the conflict. The mediator also set protocol to guide the use of language during the main mediation.
The role of the mediator at the pre-mediation is to prepare parties for the conversation, uncover the circumstances that led to the conflict (what they are here to resolve), learn the significance of the of the various sides of their story and use that information to set a criterion for resolution by searching for options that will meet that settlement criteria, and finally explain in details how the outcome will be implemented.
The mediator will at this stage guide the parties through a consent to mediate agreement to ensure that parties are committed to the process.
Over the years, pre-mediation has had both positive and negative views. Some say it offers specific benefit of speeding up the mediation process, whiles other are of the view that it may cause harm to the mediation process if not handled properly.
However, ADR experts have debunked this view saying the best mediator can never be partial. This is because a mediator is fully skilled, gifted, and well trained. As such the mediator should never become partial, especially so when the mediator serves the parties as a facilitator and not a decision maker.
Pre-mediation is, therefore, an important part of mediation and is vital to the mediation process because it allows the mediator to institute specific mechanisms in place to aid in the mediation process.
Key protocols set at the pre-mediation process are the GHOST principles (Gentle, Honest, Open, Specific, Talk), the PULSE (People Using Language Skills Effectively) frame which will be used for a structured facilitation of the mediation conversation.
At any stage the mediator will use a checklist to ensure that all the five steps and the use of other principles are followed to achieve the intended results.
The pre-mediation process aids both the mediator and parties to have a preview of the actual mediation process.
For a successful pre-mediation, a mediator must employ the use of the HEART and POWER skills as suggested by renowned mediator and author Dr. Nancy Love. She indicates that mediators in the course of facilitating a conversation for change must:
- Paraphrase by reframing the words of the party to reflect their attentiveness and seek clarification on a subject; the must ask
- Open Questions to get parties to say more about the issues that are of interest to them in order for them to get more information and fact on the matter at stake.
- Empathise with parties to acknowledge their level of emotions, and
- Reframe their story by listening for criteria for solution to identify a common ground that will change each party’s perception and create room for them to generate options for resolution.
The mediator also at this stage must guide parties to listen with their HEART during the main session. This means they must have the courage to:
- Hush, be still and quiet their own thought and feelings and honor the speaker with their attention.
- Empathise by placing themselves in the other party’s context, imagining what they might be going through emotionally and being curious about what they are experiencing and how they feel.
- Attend to and pay attention the body language, words and tone of voice of the each party as that will enable with a better understanding of the situation
- Reflect back statement of parties by paraphrasing their own words for them to clarify or endorse what they really meant, and
- Both mediator and parties to trust the process. The mediator must get parties to trust the process and get them to understand that they are capable of resolving their conflict but all they need is a guidance or facilitation of the conversation which he/she will do.
Without the pre-mediation process the formal mediation process may not occur smoothly.