Mediation Online Vs Face to Face Mediation
When couples or family members are experiencing relationship issues, they often turn to mediation. The process enables disputing parties to talk through their issues with the mediator and reach an agreement that suits all parties involved. This avoids costly court battles that often end in a strained relationship. However, mediation can be delivered in many ways, including online. While the online option has its merits, face to face sessions are still preferable.
In traditional face to face mediation, people sit opposite one another across a table with mediators sitting between them. While there is something intuitive about this arrangement, it can be very uncomfortable for people who find the whole concept of mediation challenging. In addition, the parties may be forced to face their own dysfunctional dynamics in front of each other, resulting in a difficult mediation experience.
The online alternative, on the other hand, allows participants to engage with a mediator in the same way as in a face to face session, or even in a more informal way. People can use the chat facilities to ask their mediator questions and can also mute or break-out to private discussions if they feel that this is necessary.
A further benefit is that sessions can be conducted at times that are convenient for the individual. For example, a remote session can take place at the start or end of a work day, or during a lunch break. For those with childcare responsibilities, this can be particularly beneficial.
While there are benefits to online mediation, it is important for all participants to consider the limitations of virtual options. For instance, a poor internet connection or a glitch in the software may result in a loss of communication. This can be countered by setting contingency plans with the mediator prior to the session (i.e. audio conference call; backup continuance date/time). In addition, the reliance on technology can be a challenge for those who are not as comfortable with the online medium.
It is also worth remembering that mediation, unlike arbitration or negotiation, is based on the identification of common interests. This means that meeting in person can be more effective, especially for those who are finding it difficult to express themselves verbally and are having trouble communicating.
The Attorney General’s ‘Face-To-Face’ Mediation program was first introduced in 1984. It was initially met with reservations by national consumer agencies who were unsure whether consumers and businesses would be willing to participate in a voluntary dispute resolution process for small dollar amounts. However, the program is now an integral part of the Australian legal system and is available to all Australians. face to face mediation