The closing of a mediation process is an important final step. It is the last opportunity that the mediator has to ensure that all of the concerns and interests of the parties, including relationship issues, have been addressed. This can significantly impact the parties’ substantive and psychological satisfaction with the process and impact their adherence to any resolution achieved.
A mediation process may close in three different ways:
- With agreement;
- With partial agreement; and
- Without agreement.
In concluding a mediation process where the parties have reached a resolution on all issues, it is important that the mediator ensures that the parties clearly understand the specific terms of the resolution arrived at. Time should be spent working through the details of the proposed solution to ensure the parties have a clear understanding of what is being agreed to and that it is achievable. The terms should be detailed using clear language and in a written agreement signed by the parties. Care must be taken to ensure that the parties are fully aware of the next steps required, the timelines and who bears responsibility for any actions to be taken.
If the parties will have an ongoing relationship, such as continuing to work together, the mediator must ensure that they have had a full opportunity to communicate openly and respectfully and that all opportunities to repair and restore the relationship have been provided throughout the process. The closing can be an opportune time to work through any final issues or concerns and rebuild trust between the parties.
It is important that the parties obtain psychological satisfaction and have a feeling of being heard and acknowledged in the process so that they may move forward from the conflict or dispute. Often during the mediation process, an apology may be important to a party. It is a party’s own decision whether to apologize or, conversely, to forgive. However, if an apology is to be given, a mediator can assist the party in making the apology effective and understood by the other party. Reconciliation will allow them to interact more positively in the future.
At the conclusion, the mediator should commend the parties for their genuine and good faith efforts at open communication. Further, the mediator should relate optimism that the agreement is positive and provide encouragement for their future interactions, if their relationship is to continue.
In summary, in closing a successful mediation process, the mediator should ensure that the substantive, procedural and psychological or relational elements have been addressed. Further, cultural issues should be considered by the mediator throughout, particularly during the closing. There may be certain steps or formalities at conclusion that are important to a party because of their cultural background.
With partial agreement
If a mediation is concluding with only partial resolution, the issues resolved should be clarified and understood and, if the parties are agreeable, a partial agreement should be set out in detail and signed by the parties. The mediator should then focus on and clarify what issues remain and encourage continued effort by the parties. Further options should be proposed to the parties, such as a further mediation session or an evaluative type of mediation. Thus the mediator should attempt to ensure that the momentum and progress made in the mediation is not lost.
Further, the mediator should acknowledge the parties for their efforts and the progress made in partially resolving the issues. The mediator should also express optimism that the remaining issues can be resolved and conclude the mediation in a positive, hopeful manner.
If the parties were unable to reach a satisfactory resolution, the mediator should focus on and provide praise and encouragement for any constructive discussion and progress made. The mediator might again review with the parties their interests and provide some guidance around any issues for them to consider further. If genuine, a mediator should express optimism that the issues are resolvable and provide the parties with some of the various options available to them.