Does the Truth Matter?
I am about to say something which may sound controversial.
‘The actual truth doesn’t matter in mediation’
If this was a philosophy exam question it would be
‘The actual truth doesn’t matter in mediation’ Discuss.
Before I get inundated with complaints let me put this into context.
Honour, integrity and trust very much matter in everything including mediation but mediation isn’t litigation, where resolution is determined by points of law and the courts judgment.
In the context of mediation, the actual truth is not the real issue. It focuses on what the participants feel to be true.
For example in a consumer mediation,
‘You sold me faulty goods it broke the second time I used it versus ‘No, you must have damaged it’
Who is correct? What is the truth? Can this be resolved without proof? What constitutes proof?
All of these accusations, questions and subjective judgments are the contributing factors leading to the dispute in the first place and why a mediator has been appointed.
Likewise all of these issues and the different versions of events have prevented the participants resolving the dispute unaided.
It is important for the mediator to understand that both parties are telling their version of the truth and that it is quite possible that the truth may lie somewhere in between. The goods may have had a design fault so was not as robust as expected when dropped or unbeknown to the user, user error caused the damage.
The actual truth as opposed to the perceived truth is why going to court is a risky option for both parties.
The insistence by each individual that their truth is the actual truth tethers the parties to their disagreement and prevents them moving forward to resolution. It is not the mediators role to judge but to navigate the participant’s journey to a mutually satisfying outcome and closure.