It’s a busy and cluttered world out there full of individuals with their agendas. As a result, disagreements and disputes are bound to happen from time to time. When disputes happen, it’s best to approach the problem with a three-step, problem-solving approach called alternative dispute resolution (ADR). It’s an efficient and money-saving, alternative to the traditional justice system; the three steps are negotiation, mediation, and arbitration.
The negotiation process is a simple, informal process that involves the following steps: identify the issues, explain needs and interests, brainstorm solutions and compromises, explore settlement options, and finalize terms of the agreement.
Negotiation takes up the least amount of time and money due to its informal process. When reasonable people enter into honest negotiation, it is typically the only step that is needed to resolve any dispute. However, sometimes an agreement can’t be met through the typical negotiation process, so we take the second step — mediation.
Mediation involves a neutral, trained 3rd party that attempts to resolve conflict between two or more parties. Even though mediation does require more time and money, it tends to preserve relationships because the people involved create their non-legally binding settlement agreements — unless everyone agrees to formalize them. If mediation doesn’t work, there’s still one more step to take before we all head off to court — arbitration.
Arbitration is a potentially costly and time-consuming formal process — but usually less than lawsuits, which motivates the board to resolve disputes before we reach this final step. Arbitrators are legal experts that base their final, legal decisions on evidence provided. Only under limited circumstances can the arbitrator’s decision be appealed to the courts.
ADR is designed to help conserve community member resources when attempting to settle a dispute. The farther disputes go within the ADR process; the more expensive disputes will ultimately cost.