Preparation for Mediation (PFM) - What is it and how does it benefit your clients?

Written by Simon Dadley-Moore

Preparation For Mediation (PFM) is an integral part of FairWay’s FDR service. It has a proven record of increasing the likelihood of parties reaching agreement in mediation. It has been so successful that FairWay are now utilising the PFM service in other areas of their dispute resolution business. So what is PFM and why is it so successful?

Preparation For Mediation is a brief intervention available to parties prior to their FDR mediation. The purpose of PFM is to increase a person’s capacity to participate in mediation constructively. PFM is a unique mix of coaching and support work with a practical and educational focus.

PFM is provided nationwide via phone, video-conferencing and face-to-face meetings. It is provided to parties separately. Parties receive 1.5 hours of PFM each. PFM is usually facilitated over two sessions in the weeks prior to the joint mediation meeting. Both parties have access to fully funded PFM if at least one of them is eligible for FDR funding. PFM is also available privately for unfunded parties.

PFM is tailored to the needs of each participant however there are often common threads to PFM sessions.

  1. Helping people understand the power of doing something different - People arrive at mediation because either their attempts to find resolution with the other party haven’t worked, or the relationship between the parties has broken down to the extent that they have not tried. If people then participate in mediation and continue to use the same approaches they have tried so far, they often get surprised (or not surprised!) when they get the same outcomes. If people want something different to emerge from their mediation then they have to be willing and capable of doing something different in the mediation. After all, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is often referred to as the very definition of insanity.

Preparation For Mediation helps people understand that the only way they can have any influence over the change that is happening, or that they want to happen, is by changing themselves.

  1. Assisting people to identify possible differences and learning new skills and tools in these areas - Fundamental to PFM is helping people learn and practice new skills and tools. PFM assists people to uncover constructive differences (self-change) they can embrace to create positive shifts in their dispute. These are often in areas such as: listening, responding, presenting their story, body language and negotiating.
  1. Strengthening people’s capacity to utilise their new skills & tools in the joint mediation setting - Human behaviour is hugely influenced by a person’s thinking, feelings, emotions and physiology. We have all experienced occasions when we have known how we wanted to behave and even had the skills to do so, however were unable to carry this out when necessary. To help someone improve their performance in mediation, it is not sufficient to just focus on their behaviour. People also need to be assisted to make shifts in their ‘inner world’. PFM therefore also focuses on supporting people with the tools to regulate and optimise their physiology, emotions, feelings and thinking. This increases their capacity to successfully perform the behavioural changes in the mediation setting.
  1. Supporting people to create a plan for how they are going to participate in the mediation - Whilst many people participating in mediation are focused on what they want. A well prepared party will also have clarity on how they are going to participate in the mediation. PFM supports people to bring together all their new learning and develop a thorough plan.

PFM outcomes include improvement in a person’s:

  • ability to shift unhelpful patterns of communication, behaviour and thought.
  • willingness and capacity to listen.
  • ability to engage in discussion without attack or getting defensive.
  • focus on a future & solution focused narrative.
  • capacity to regulate their thoughts, emotions and physiology and therefore lower their negative emotional arousal.
  • understanding of their contribution to the solution.
  • ability to maintain an open mind during the mediation process and an increased awareness of their behaviour and how it helps or hinders in the mediation.
  • feeling empowered and safe in the mediation process.

 “Thank you for helping my reclaim myself! It wasn’t easy but when he tried to wind me up I was ready. I kept my thoughts balanced, therefore keeping my head. It was long as you prepared me for but we got a result in the end. I couldn’t have done this without your tools and advice. I now feel some hope for the future. Thank you so much”

PFM is fast growing in stature as a mediation enhancing process. This specialist preparation service is making a substantial contribution to what is possible during mediation. PFM’s potential for application across all areas of dispute resolution is both timely and exciting.

Simon Dadley-Moore has been at the forefront of the development and facilitation of FairWay’s PFM service. He facilitates PFM nationwide via video-conferencing and phone. He also provides a successful FDR, mediation and supervision practice.