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The Private Meeting and Using Private Meeting Information: When Public Disclosure is Hard

The Private Meeting and Using Private Meeting Information: When Public Disclosure is Hard

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand how and why to initiate private meetings with parties to a conflict and how to use information derived from those meetings.

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When parties are in conflict and they enter the conflict resolution process, they meet with an intervener. And together, they sit down to discuss their conflict and reach resolution. But the intervener may call a private meeting.

I'm Marlene, and today I'd like to talk with you about that concept-- the concept of the private meeting. First of all, in more formal conflict resolution settings, an intervener will quite often meet separately with one or both of the parties simply to ask some questions or gather information that might be difficult to get when both parties are there. That happens in these more formal settings.

But even in a more informal setting, the intervener may call a private meeting. I've written private meeting here, and we're going to look at why we would call that meeting. It's a meeting where the intervener will meet with the parties separately. And typically, we do that because we want to check in on how things are going, check in on the process. Or perhaps we sense that one of the parties or maybe both of the parties are not expressing something, and the reason that they're not expressing it is they may feel uncomfortable doing so with the other party present in the room.

So that is another reason to have a private meeting. Let me write both of these down. First one is to just simply check in. This is part of an overall process check. How is it going? It gives the party an opportunity to give suggestions, ask questions, comment on the process itself. The second reason is for the party to be able to disclose information that he or she may be uncomfortable disclosing with the other party present.

It's important for the intervener to tell the parties right up front in the beginning that there is a possibility of having this private meeting or caucus-- it's sometimes referred to as a caucus-- and to let the parties know about it so they will feel comfortable with the process. You don't want them to perceive that this meeting is a secretive thing, that the intervener is going to out and meet with one of the parties, but that it's meant to be an opportunity, actually, not only for the intervener to check in, but for each of the parties to have an opportunity to check in with the intervener. So they can call a private meeting if they'd like to, or you can call a meeting with them. And if you do meet with one party, it's a good idea to also meet with the other party so that you're checking in with both.

You may find that there are times when somebody in the meeting here, in the mediation, in the conflict resolution process, is not expressing something. And you sense that there's something that maybe they want to say that they're uncomfortable maybe saying in the room with the other party present. That is an excellent reason to call a private meeting or caucus.

You can ask them if there's something they would like to say. It's important that they know that these private meetings are confidential, which means that what the party tells you in that meeting stays in that private meeting. You're not going to go back and tell the other party what you just heard. It's confidential.

You may hear something that perhaps is vital to the outcome of the conflict. And you can use the meeting as a time to maybe talk with the party about what might be an acceptable way to bring this up. Discuss that with them and find out if there is a possible way that this might be introduced into the room with the other party. If it seems that this is something that's really important to be expressed, you can use the private meeting to do that as well. Of course, if the party doesn't agree, you don't say anything, and it remains confidential.

So these private meanings or these caucuses are another opportunity to allow the parties to feel comfortable with the process. Because not only will they be meeting in the room with you and the other party, but they do have this opportunity to step out and to speak with you privately, to share things that they may be uncomfortable sharing in the meeting and also to check in with you on the process. And you can do the same with them. That's the concept of the private meeting.

I've enjoyed meeting with you, and I look forward to next time.

Terms to Know

In conflict resolution, the treating of information shared between two people as not to be shared with any other person without the expressed consent of the first person.

Private Meeting

Part of a mediation process in which the mediator meets with each party alone (e.g. without the other party present).