One way of resolving a conflict is litigation, or a process of resolving a dispute through civil court.
Oftentimes there are lawyers, and sometimes a jury involved. Litigation can thus be costly and time consuming.
An alternative to litigation, arbitration is a process of resolving a dispute by seeking a decision from a neutral third party outside of the court system.
A lot of legal documents have arbitration guidelines written into them. If there's a dispute about something in the document, it can be settled by a third party who makes a binding decision outside of court.
Facilitation, as opposed to arbitration and litigation where the third party has sole decision-making power, is a process in which decision-making, communication, or negotiation is aided by the actions of a neutral or outside party.
A facilitator is typically a neutral party working with a larger group. Perhaps this group has to make a decision, but there's dissent within the group, and it's difficult to reach a consensus.
The third party facilitator is brought in to help the group have this conversation, and come to some resolution.
There's also conciliation, in which the conflict resolver meets privately with the parties involved in the dispute, seeking to gain concessions from each party.
This often happens when you have quite a bit of hostility, and the parties don't want to be present in the same room together; the parties prefer to meet separately while still having their needs communicated.
The conflict resolver will go back and forth, bringing concessions from one side to the other, hoping to come to some middle ground.
While there might be a point when maybe the parties both agree to meet face to face, the goal is to reach resolution through the conciliation process.
Similar to facilitation and conciliation, mediation empowers the disputing parties to make their own decision. In this form of conflict resolution, a neutral third party helps disputing parties to communicate effectively in order to alter their relationship, reach an agreement, or both.
The word neutral is key here because the mediator is not involved in the decision, and doesn't have any particular interest in which way it goes. The role of the mediator is simply:
Let's now look at some ways in which mediation has been very successful at various levels:
EXAMPLEPolice may refer cases to community mediation groups in order to focus on the crimes that need their attention. These can be cases such as disputes between neighbors, or other people within the community.
EXAMPLETruth and regulatory stakeholder negotiations are governed by the Federal Mediation Conciliation Service, which will bring together the government agency and those affected by upcoming rules or regulations.
EXAMPLEAnother successful federal program is the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP), which brings an offender face to face with the victim so that the offender can hear the impact of his/her actions, take responsibility for what he/she has done, and make amends.
EXAMPLEDivorce proceedings are another example from within courts. Instead of going through litigation in a courtroom, more and more couples are seeking mediation as a means of divorce.
Source: Adapted from Sophia tutorial by Marlene Johnson.