Mediation is fast becoming a commonly accepted alternative form of dispute resolution. For most of us, we have probably heard of mediation as a tool for separating and divorcing couples to settle disputes before going to court or a process used in formal and informal industrial and workplace disputes, but there are elements of mediation that are significant to relationships in all areas of life and fundamental principles that many people could benefit from when facing conflict in their everyday lives.

According to the Federal Court of Australia (2010), “Mediation is a structured negotiation process in which an independent person, known as a mediator, assists the parties to identify and assess options and negotiate an agreement to resolve their dispute…” Mediation is not just an ad hoc meeting but a specific dispute resolution method particularly effective in conflicts where boundaries are at risk or when a successful outcome is under threat (Doherty & Guyler, 2008).

Mediation is commonly used by parties who seek an amicable outcome. In order for mediation to be effective, both parties must be willing to search for a solution, be committed to the success of the process as a whole, and both parties must be open to explore their ideal future scenario in light of each other’s needs and experiences to build a mutually acceptable agreement (Doherty & Guyler, 2008).

Whilst mediation may not be an appropriate method for all conflicts, the fundamental principles of mediation can assist individuals to approach conflict in a very different light. Mediation is voluntary, confidential, and most importantly, it is solution or agreement focused. This means that quite often the dialogue can take a positive future oriented perspective as participants focus on what can be achieved rather than the problems that first led them to seek help.

Maintaining a solution focus helps people to identify what they want to have changed about the source of the conflict and also identify the things that they want to continue to have happen. In this way, participants are respected and empowered to offer solutions to their own problems and are encouraged to explore their own strengths whilst conflict is seen as a natural resource.

Whilst mediation should always be facilitated by a skilled and impartial third party, and not every conflict will be appropriate to apply mediation, the underlying principles of mediation can be an excellent resource in addressing conflict in everyday life. A willingness to work together and maintaining a solution focus can often lead to a successful outcome.


  1. Federal Court of Australia (2010). Mediation: What is mediation? Downloaded 27 August 2010 from
  2. Doherty, N. & Guyler, M, (2008).The essential guide to workplace mediation and conflict resolution: Rebuilding working relationships. London; Kogan Page Publishers.