By Caitlin Switzer
COLORADO–(May 20, 2014) The word is mediation. In the end, however, it’s about conversation—and communication. For those who choose mediation and facilitation as a means to resolve a dispute or clarify a relationship, the process can be a way to achieve a desired outcome.
“Conflict resolution is a skill that everyone can learn,” Montrose mediator and facilitator Tricia Winslow said. “I help people solve problems and make decisions. So often, the parties already know what the solution is; they just need some help getting there.”
Winslow believes that conflict resolution is about finding a place beyond fear. She often shares the Rumi quote, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”
For Winslow, mediation is that field.
“Mediation helps us create order from Chaos,” she said.
Winslow has done her own share of creating order from chaos; though her education and training began in Denver she has spent much of her career in the rural communities of the Western Slope. Winslow has invested in higher education, and has made a point of sharing that investment with others. After earning her Bachelors in Organizational Communications and graduating summa cum laude from Western State College, Winslow completed 40 hours of professional training in family mediation at CDR Associates in Boulder, and went on to attend the University of Denver, where she obtained her Advanced Study Certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution.
Over the years Tricia has enhanced her strong credentials with continuing education and volunteer work. And though she has worked for countless high-profile clients as both a mediator and facilitator, Winslow remains proudest of her work with the state’s Office of Dispute Resolution.
“Mediation is a balanced discussion,” Winslow said. “Someone with my credentials is trained in different processes.”
Though many retired judges often enter the mediation profession, their prior legal experiences can make the experience somewhat different for those participating, notes professional mediator and attorney James Carr of Estes Park, who believes that in such situations there can be an emphasis on settlement. In mediation, however, the process can be as important as the final result.
“Sometimes, people just want a chance to talk things through,” Carr said.
Though mediation has been a part of his practice for 12 years, Carr also has more than 40 years’ experience as an attorney and an extensive background in litigation; in addition to serving as counsel to the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission and participating in legislative action relating to professional regulation and mediation, Carr is a past member of the American Bar Association’s board of governors. A member of the Mediation Association of Colorado, Carr’s enthusiasm for mediation is such that he coaches mediation training and speaks at mediation education programs.
“To me, mediation is a process by which parties come together to discuss a case,” he said. “The mediator is the facilitator. It is a good process that allows parties to explore different options that might not come up otherwise.”
Mediation can also equalize an imbalance of power, Carr said.
“Lots of dynamics are involved,” he said. “There can be power imbalances between two parties; as mediators we need to be conscious of these and try to equalize the playing field. Part of our job is to maintain equality, and not let one party beat up on another.
“Mediation is a complex process, with wonderful results,” he said. “It offers an opportunity for people to walk away with a win-win situation—unlike litigation, where you end up with a winner and a loser.”
Robyn McDonald of Denver is also a professional mediator, and president of the Mediation Association of Colorado.
“Mediation is not therapy, nor is it a settlement conference,” she notes. “It is a process in which an impartial third party (the mediator) assists parties in dispute, in order to resolve their conflict. The mediator facilitates a dialogue that allows the parties a safe, confidential and voluntary place to discuss their interests, concerns and goals for resolution.”
Mediation also allows parties to maintain some control over the outcome, she said.
McDonald urges clients to prepare ahead of time, and to ask themselves questions, such as “what is the best case scenario for you moving forward (as well as the worst), “how can you help make this scenario a reality during the mediation,” and “what would you like to talk about during this mediation?”
Mediation can be ordered by the courts in some cases, and can take several forms, including transformative, facilitative and evaluative, she said. In all cases, the mediator is there to serve the process.
“Mediators are future focused,” McDonald said. “A mediator’s goal will always be to keep the collective objectives and goals at the forefront of this journey.”
For her part, Tricia Winslow continues to find working inspiration in a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”