The biggest problem we face when working to negotiate a resolution to a conflict is not knowing or understanding what we really want. Beyond the “prize” of winning, we do not think about the details and the implications of those details. We humans focus on the idea of the win. Perhaps there is an object on which we focus as the “win.” Ultimately, the object of “victory” rarely provides the satisfaction we seek.
Mediation works because the parties spend time examining their conflict through the eyes of a disinterested third party. The mediator, that third party, has experience with negotiating in a wide variety of conflicts as well as reflecting, that is telling parties what their situation looks like from the outside.
When one or both parties fixate on an outcome, the mediator can help show that person the challenges to their thinking, the blind spots in their arguments, and the other potentially beneficial “wins” that might not have entered their minds. The environment of mediation offers confidentiality and privacy for discovery that goals for conflict resolution might not be as crisp and precise as we believed. Mediation provides the space to discover whether or not goals are achievable.