Something feels fair to us when the method we used to make important decisions is sensible, we feel respected, and we have a chance to participate actively in all parts of the decision-making.

Sometimes we want someone else to decide things for us—like a judge. In front of a judge, the process is formal. There are rules and procedures about who can say what and when. We can accept the outcome and feel satisfied if the trial is conducted in accordance with the stated procedures, if the judge acts in an impartial manner, if our point of view has been fully presented, and if the laws (the rules) are applied properly. Then, we can say, the process was fair.

At other times, however, we want to be more involved in how our views are presented. We want to be directly involved in speaking for ourselves and making decisions that we decide are best for us. Mediation provides that opportunity–where an impartial and unbiased mediator helps the parties in dispute to: talk about the conflict, identify and clarify the reasons for the conflict, listen to one another, create possible solutions, and find answers and solutions that are practical, reasonable and that completely resolve the dispute.

No matter what approach you choose, there are some questions you can ask to be sure the process was fair.

• Were you treated fairly by the judge or mediator?
• Was the process conducted in even-handed manner?
• If there were rules to govern the process, were they applied consistently and equally?
• Was the process managed in a dignified and professionally way?
• When you consider the costs (money, time, effort) and the benefits received (process and outcome), were you satisfied with your choice?
• Were you treated as adult and with respect? Did your ideas and concerns matter?
• Did you have a full and unimpeded opportunity to speak and be heard, to present and respond to ideas, information and proposals?
• Were all parties encouraged to listen attentively? Did the judge or mediator listen carefully?
• Was everyone given an opportunity to participate? Did everyone have a voice?
• Did the process encourage and support every one’s ability to engage honestly; to express ideas, proposals and emotions? Was there a chance to react and respond to other people’s ideas?
• Did you feel the process was inclusive; that those essential to the discussion were involved?
• Did the timing—the scheduling and pace of the process help you with thoughtful decision-making?
• Was the process organized and handled in an open and transparent manner? Did you understand what was happening at every moment? Were there unspoken rules or opaque procedures?

This is the third section of a four-part post. The next section deals with the importance of being able to participate fully in the choices that affect your future. This includes the opportunity to speak, to ask questions, and to be treated with dignity and respect.

Photo by daria-nepriakhina,