Preventive Mediation or a Healthy Alternative

By: Sylvia Mayer, Mayer on Mediation (

How many times in the past month have you swallowed your anger, frustration or disappointment to avoid conflict? Or allowed the status quo to remain because there is no agreement on change? Or made excuses to cover mistakes or lapses, rather than address the underlying issue?

And how often has it backfired? Perhaps your frustration bubbled over in a different context. Or you put relationship preservation over conflict resolution only to find that the relationship was frayed beyond repair. Or one too many mistakes or lapses resulted in a major problem.

These situations arise in all aspects of our lives from business relationships to workplace interaction to family dynamics. As a mediator, it is quite common to work with parties for whom the underlying dispute was brewing long before a lawsuit was filed. By the time the parties file their lawsuit and make it to mediation, they are entrenched in their positions. Loads of time and money have been spent on litigation. There may have been years of stress and strain from the dispute – often resulting in lost productivity, lost (or gained) weight, lost (or graying) hair, and even lost marriages.

There is a better way. Before a problem erupts into litigation, consider preventive mediation (also known as pre-litigation mediation). Preventive mediation is used to address conflict — or the potential for conflict — so as to avoid negative consequences. It is a proactive approach to problem solving when the invested parties are unable to solve the problem on their own.

Preventive mediation can be highly beneficial in a variety of contexts, including workplace disputes, elder care and family conflicts, and challenges in business relationships. Basically, pre-litigation mediation should be considered in any situation where parties have a vested interest in preserving the relationship, while resolving the conflict.

The advantages of preventive mediation include saving time and money, protecting the privacy of the parties, and empowering the parties to solve their problems without engaging in potentially destructive litigation. However, the most important advantage is relationship preservation.

The next time you have a conflict – whether with a critical vendor, key customer, contract counterparty, subordinate, co-worker, superior, family member or anyone else – don’t let the conflict destroy the relationship. Instead, consider involving a neutral third party to help you constructively work through and resolve the conflict. Depending on the dispute and the parties involved, you may need to engage a professional mediator, but sometimes all you need is a cooler head to facilitate the dialog.

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