What is Mediation? Well, let’s look first at what it is not: 1) It is not a way to punish your opposing party; 2) It is not Litigation; 3) It is not (or at least should not be) confrontational.
1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God and there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus”. How that translates to the practice of law is “the question of the day” and the real question behind a Christian’s method for practicing law.
Matthew 5:9: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. As an attorney, what is your ultimate goal in your practice – peace or victory?
In 2000, I started my practice as a mediator. After having been an arbitrator for 14 years it was a huge change in mindset. It was no longer my job to determine who was right/wrong or even what the final outcome should be, but rather focusing on the process. That is the crux of mediation. I had to develop a totally different set of skills.
In mediation, the focus is on the parties and what they really need in the process. That’s right – their need. You see, there is no right or wrong outcome to mediation. The participants have goals and needs that they strive to encompass but they soon realize that to be successful in a mediation there must be a willingness to listen to the opposition and to work to help them also meet their expectations. A successful mediation leaves both parties slightly unfulfilled. The real win is that both parties have a stake in the game and a significant part in the outcome. They “buy” into the outcome and can walk away with their heads held high and move on with their life with minimal long-term anger.
Most of my mediations having been in the realm of Family Law and I have found that after a successful mediation, often, the parties start working together for the good of the children. They lose much their animosity towards the spouse/partner and start to focus on the bigger picture of what is best for the kids. As a mediator, my responsibility is: to help these struggling “adults” understand that their decisions have lifelong impacts, to help them move past the intense emotions they are dealing with at the moment, and to realize they will always be a parent.
What does it take to be a mediator?
1) Every state requires a minimum of a 40 hour class in mediation from an approved trainer/organization. Some states prefer either a Juris Doctorate or some other specified professional degree.
2) A willingness to put aside what you think the outcome must be and listen closely to the parties as they work through the issues,
3) The ability to identify with the parties to build trust in your neutrality,
4) The ability to read body language of others while controlling your own (one of the hardest learned skills).
With an active mediation practice in two states and over 2,000 mediations, I can honestly say it is rewarding and fulfilling to serve others in their time of anguish and strife.
Dale Sikes received a degree in Police Science and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Studies Education with a minor in Psychology in 1975. In 1999, he received his Juris Doctorate from Oak Brook College of Law.
From 1977 – 2009 he worked for the USPS; retiring as the Postmaster in Altoona Iowa. Dale Presently, lives in Ankeny Iowa and practices in the legal field as a mediator. He also teaches high school, college and law school students in the art of mediation.