Often, parties in conflict agree on wanting to mediate, but struggle over where and how to begin: what to propose or counter-propose, and on what they should base their first move.
One difficulty, certainly, is putting aside the sense that a concession or sign of weakness is being communicated. It helps to be reminded that in mediation there are no decision-makers involved other than the parties, themselves. No legal determination will be rendered, and the parties’ obligation of confidentiality means only they will know what went into crafting their arrangement, and why they decided it was the better alternative.
As for where to begin, I believe the process of achieving agreement – and inherent desires of closure and finality – is eased by looking forward, not back. I recommend parties approach with an eye toward where they’d like to go from “here” or what kind of arrangement may benefit their life or business “now,” rather than seeking an outcome that primarily redresses the past. Proposals of the former kind are practical in nature, and allow for creativity. They also avoid nonnegotiable discussions over matters such as principle and personally drawn conclusions over past events.
These notions can not only help set a productive exchange in motion, but can also assist parties throughout the process of achieving resolution.