Mediation Stories

Young Female

A young female employee in a large organization was upset because her supervisor made comments that seemed critical of the employee’s lifestyle with her female partner.  She was thinking of quitting and/or suing.  The mediators helped them reflect on their relationship.  After an hour of open and honest conversation the two of them learned some things about each other.  They saw that poor communication was at the heart of their difficulty.  They expressed that they were pleased to continue working together. 

Family Businesses

A woman had helped her young adult son set up a business.  She was disappointed in his work ethic.  He felt pressured and misunderstood. The mediators listened to everything they had to say, helping them to see how their history as a  family had played into the present conflict.  The mediators asked some questions, “What were your hopes and expectations going into this?”  “How is it going for you becoming an independent young adult and what kind of support do you want from your mom?”  “What is it like for you as your son becomes an adult and what kind of relationship do you want?” Hard words eventually turned to better understanding of each other, some tears and laughter, and a new approach to their changing relationship.



Several years ago I was asked by a homeowners association to help resolve a dispute over a barking dog. Unfortunately there is no shortage of barking dog disputes but this one had some interesting differences that I'd like share. I think mediation is more about asking the right question at the right time than almost any other skill.

We had about 12 people show up for the mediation and I had the chairs arranged in a semi circle. I didn't know who owned the offending dog so everyone was given equal status.

I began by asking everyone to come to the flip chart and show where they live on a hand drawn map and tell how long they had lived there. I think we can use more than words on flip charts. Then I asked everyone to tell me about their dog and I found out that everyone owned a dog and each of them wanted to share. Next I asked what was acceptable behavior for a dog in this neighborhood. Some said that they were okay in the front yard and on the street, and others said in the house or back yard only. This helped us



A local store did a promotion which was based on survival skills, inspired by shows currently popular on television. The winner would get several fairly expensive home entertainment items. However, the first hurdle was to be selected to compete; chances were given to people who deposited entry blanks at the store for random selection.

Party number one submitted several entries for family members, and was greatly surprised to find two were selected. However, one of those selected could not compete, and the rules allowed a substitution. A substitute was found, and a verbal agreement was reached that stated, in effect, that since it took both the entry [party one] and the substitute [party two] to use the second entry, the parties would share the prizes, although who would get what items was not determined. There was no agreement between number one and the other candidate, the family member.

As luck would have it, the finals came down to the family member and the substitute, and the winner was the substitute, who agreed to eat bugs while the family member declined. However, at this point party number two, the substitute, insisted on all the prizes, stating that missing a day of work and eating bugs earned the right to claim them. Party number one instantly objected to the store making that award, and filed a small claims case. The store did not want to get in the middle and said that the prizes would be awarded to no one until the matter was settled.

In the Ohio community the small claims court refers about ninety percent of its cases to the local mediation center in hopes that the disputes can be resolved in that setting. Usually these disputes are resolved in mediation, with the parties offering their perspectives and designing solutions together, at the mediation table. Resolving this dispute, however, was not done through traditional mediation, but rather by using a facilitated process with the mediation center staff acting as a go-between to help collect information and to facilitate a resolution.

When the matter was first discussed it became apparent that neither party was clear about the total value of the prize. The mediation center inquired on their behalf, as a neutral third party, and learned it was $2,599.00. The manager, anxious to have this problem resolved, offered to cancel the individual items and instead award two prizes, store credits worth $1,299.50 each, if the parties would agree and sign a paper that they would not pursue the matter in court.

The following is from the community mediation center employee who facilitated the agreement:

I approached both parties with this concept and they agreed. We were able to successfully [reach a resolution to] this case in three days and had a signed agreement. Both parties were ecstatic and could not wait to sign the agreement [and] hurry to the store to claim their prizes. [Company name] was thrilled to have this over quickly and quietly.




The family was in a state of high tension, threatening to come apart. Teenagers were feeling that both their contributions and their requests were being ignored. Dad was trying to handle his responsibilities and to make up for some previous parenting mistakes, but was having trouble balancing time, chores, and responding to requests. Mom, the major wage earner, felt stressed and under-appreciated. Doors had been slammed hard enough to break glass. Although there was no violence toward any person, the police had been called once when things got very hot.


The parents spoke to a staff person at one of Ohio’s mediation centers. The parents then discussed the possibility of mediation with the teenagers, and all agreed that they loved each other, they didn’t want things to get worse, but that without help the next blowup could involve greater emotional hurt than before, making healing that much more difficult. The family chose to try to mediate their way out of this deteriorating situation.


The mediation began with each person sharing their perspectives on the problems, explaining things from their point of view; complaints, concerns, and wishes, each holding the floor for as long as necessary, with the mediator asking appropriate questions and summarizing what was heard to assure clarity. Since they were able, in a calm setting, to fully explain their point of view, all members of the family were able to really hear and begin to appreciate the others’ concerns and frustrations.


Once a verbal mediated agreement that addressed all concerns was reached, it was written in readily understandable terms and signed. One month later the mediator was contacted and told that, although the agreement was working quite well, adjusting to it had brought to light some other relationship problems. In a second, shorter mediation session the same pattern was followed, and the family stated that they felt comfortable with the new agreement and was confident it would work for them.




Joan lived next door to a vacant home. The owner of that property, Larry, did not live on the premises nor wished to sell it, and had stated that he was perfectly content with the situation. Joan, on the other hand, was upset with the situation; she did not like the idea of an empty house and the potential for problems such as vandalism and break-ins. In addition, the lawn occasionally got very long and weedy before a contractor would come and mow.


Over the years city inspectors demanded that certain repairs be made to the property. Although Larry complied each time to the city’s satisfaction, Joan was unhappy that she would have to see, next door, a situation such as a broken downspout or overgrown bushes for a month or more before the city would inspect, and several more weeks before the work would be completed. On occasion Joan would contact Larry to report a concern about the property but there was never a conversation, only a brief opportunity to make her concern known.


Eventually the roots of a tree on the property line began to cause damage to Joan’s driveway. Joan was certain the tree belonged to the adjoining property. According to Joan, Larry would not return her calls about this latest concern. Joan contacted the local community mediation center for information about its services.


The mediation center contacted Larry and invited him to consider mediation, but he declined, denying any responsibility for the tree. Information on mediation was mailed to both parties. Eventually Larry contacted the center staff, asking them to become involved. He would not meet with Joan alone but would meet if the center would act as a neutral third party.


In mediation the two parties had the most extensive conversations of their relationship, so that the total process consumed several hours. A variety of concerns were identified and solutions offered. Regarding the tree, Joan received permission to cut it down. She was willing to assume the cost, and was allowed to keep the wood for firewood. In addition, Joan and Larry agreed to procedures for more effective communication in the future.



We also mediated successfully with the situations described below, and lots more:

Board members and staff members of local organization who disagreed about a key personnel issue,

Employees at a local business had issues that seem to have a lot to do with being female and male and with roles and expectations,

A local woman threatened with foreclosure on her home,

A couple with two children needing to come up with a shared parenting plan, but most attempts to discuss issues led to shouting and accusations,

A wife and husband of many years wanted to save their marriage,  

Several members of a university department were unable to agree on important policies, with job satisfaction and productivity suffering as a result,

Three students and a landlord met in Small Claims Court, trying to agree on damage deposit issues