Those old enough to recall the TV programme Minder may remember the main character, Arthur Daley, changing the saying “A friend in need is a friend indeed” to “A friend in need is a pest”. Thankfully most of us don’t have the same outlook and when a friend is in need, we step up and support them.
What that support looks like will depend upon a whole host of factors and it is not uncommon for a party involved in a mediation to bring along a friend for support rather than attend alone or with their solicitor.
What does that mean for the friend? Well, as someone attending the mediation process and privy to the discussions and information being passed between the parties, the friend must also sign the mediation agreement confirming that they will keep the discussions and process confidential.
As with any other party attending the mediation, being prepared for long periods of waiting and being free from distractions is helpful. The focus should remain on the matter in hand – resolving the dispute. In other words, the day is dedicated to reaching a settlement without distraction so being a good friend could mean planning for children to be collected so you don’t need to dash off, not arranging video calls for work during the day unless essential– physically and mentally being present by way of support and listening a lot.
We often seek assurance from our friends who will generally add their view kindly and with the suitable amount of bias to confirm that our position is correct and there has been a wrong. What are friends for if not to assure us? The challenge at mediation is that this approach can hold someone in the past as it focuses upon the dispute itself.
The mediation process seeks to move the parties forward to the future, putting the dispute behind them and finding a resolution they can live with. There is therefore a time to assure and a time to help transition to a future focus.
The mediator will seek to engage with all present at the mediation whilst focusing upon those there to make the decisions – it’s their mediation and that is important. Being a supportive friend at mediation may mean listening and asking questions; it could mean highlighting previous priorities; mostly though, it’s ensuring that your friend has had the opportunity to speak their mind, explore what’s important to them and allows them to leave with a solution that resolves the dispute, ties up loose ends and means, in a few weeks’ time, it won’t be the main topic of your conversation together.
Top Tips: –
- Meet beforehand and arrive at the mediation together.
- Be prepared to wait for long periods between meetings.
- Commit to the process and don’t dip in and out of the mediation
- Be prepared to ask questions if you think something has been missed
- Keep positive – sometimes a solution does not seem feasible and yet mediation often surprises us all with solutions no-one thought possible.