The second animal of the Chinese zodiac is the Ox. In the Chinese zodiac, the Ox is known as hard-working. Hard work can be a hard sell.
One aspect of mediation which is obvious but rarely considered is how much work it is for the parties. Modern mediation is based on a philosophy of party empowerment. Parties cannot be empowered if third parties are making decisions for them or coming up with all the answers. It would be lovely if everyone could come to mediation and be highly negotiable, primed in interest-based bargaining and seek win-win outcomes. However, I have yet to experience that mediation session.
In reality, parties often need to prepare information and seek data, and put together their mediation homework. Homework is just the beginning. Parties may have to seek further information or specific legal advice in order to inform discussions. This work is critically important as parties need information/data to make informed decisions.
During mediation, parties often need to work hard to create options and to consider proposals. I have been in mediations where both parties turn to me and say “what should we do?”. People can feel stuck and exhausted. As a mediator, I can help by calling a break, moving to another issue or reframing the question. I cannot make the necessity for hard work go away.
In intakes (pre-mediation sessions) I often warn people that mediation will be hard work and that they will need to dig deep. The reward for that hard work is a resolution to the dispute, moving on with life and not remaining mired in conflict. On that basis, I think the hard work is a good investment.