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Negotiation vs. Mediation: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 10, 2023
"Negotiation" involves parties directly discussing terms to reach an agreement, while "mediation" involves a neutral third party assisting disputing parties in resolving their differences.

Key Differences

"Negotiation" and "mediation" are both processes aimed at resolving disputes, but they approach the issue differently. In a negotiation, the parties involved communicate directly with each other to reach a mutually acceptable solution. Conversely, mediation introduces a neutral third party, called a mediator, who helps the disputing parties find common ground.
One key feature of negotiation is that it places the responsibility of resolution directly on the shoulders of the disputing parties. They must converse, present their viewpoints, and make concessions to arrive at an agreement. Mediation, on the other hand, leverages the expertise and impartiality of the mediator to guide the conversation, suggesting possible solutions and facilitating communication.
While both negotiation and mediation aim for a resolution, the dynamics differ. In negotiation, the power play is often evident, with each party trying to get the best deal for themselves. Mediation, being facilitated by a third party, aims for a win-win scenario where all involved parties feel their concerns have been addressed.
The success of a negotiation often hinges on the interpersonal skills, persuasiveness, and strategies employed by the participants. In contrast, the success of mediation largely depends on the mediator's skills, neutrality, and ability to foster open communication between the disputing parties.
While negotiation can be adversarial, given the direct confrontation of interests, mediation offers a more collaborative environment, encouraging parties to understand each other's perspectives and work towards a harmonious resolution.

Comparison Chart

Direct Parties Involved

Yes, parties communicate directly.
No, a third party is involved.


Reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
Assist parties in finding common ground.


Lies with the disputing parties.
Lies with the mediator to guide the process.


Can be adversarial.

Outcome Dependence

On participants' skills and strategies.
On the mediator's skills and neutrality.

Negotiation and Mediation Definitions


The act of conferring to arrive at mutual consent.
The peace treaty was the result of years of negotiation.


A process where a neutral third party aids in dispute resolution.
Mediation helped the business partners come to an agreement.


A process of discussion to reach an agreement.
The business negotiation took days to finalize.


An alternative to litigation in conflict resolution.
Many companies opt for mediation to avoid court costs.


Direct communication between parties in dispute.
Their negotiation led to a renewed contract.


The act of intervening to bring about a resolution.
The couple sought mediation to resolve their differences.


Bargaining to settle differences or reach a deal.
Through tough negotiation, they settled on a price.


A method promoting understanding between disputing parties.
Through mediation, they saw each other's viewpoints.


A method of resolving differences.
Negotiation is preferred over litigation.


The involvement of an intermediary in settling disagreements.
Mediation is often faster than going to court.


The act or process of negotiating
Successful negotiation of a contract.
Entered into labor negotiations.


To resolve or settle (differences) by working with all the conflicting parties
Mediate a labor-management dispute.


The transfer of a negotiable instrument.


To bring about (a settlement, for example) by working with all the conflicting parties.


Is mediation the same as negotiation?

No, mediation involves a neutral third party assisting in the resolution.

Who takes the leading role in a mediation?

The mediator, an impartial third party, leads the mediation process.

Who communicates directly in a negotiation?

The parties involved in the dispute communicate directly in negotiation.

Is mediation considered more collaborative than negotiation?

Yes, mediation fosters collaboration and understanding between parties.

What's the primary purpose of negotiation?

Negotiation aims to reach a mutual agreement between disputing parties.

Is the outcome of negotiation binding?

It depends; if parties agree to terms and formalize them, it can be binding.

Can negotiation skills be learned and improved?

Yes, many courses and workshops teach effective negotiation techniques.

Can negotiation be confrontational?

Yes, negotiation can sometimes be adversarial due to direct confrontation of interests.

Can a negotiation turn into mediation?

Yes, if parties struggle to reach an agreement, they might seek a mediator's help.

Why might someone prefer mediation over negotiation?

Mediation can offer a more structured, neutral, and collaborative environment.

Who can act as a mediator?

Trained and certified professionals, often with expertise in the relevant area, can mediate.

Is it necessary to have legal representation in either process?

Not always, but it can be beneficial, especially for complex disputes.

Do both negotiation and mediation require compromise?

Often, both processes involve some level of compromise to reach resolution.

Is negotiation always formal?

No, negotiations can be formal or informal, depending on the context.

How does a mediator maintain neutrality?

Mediators are trained to not take sides and ensure a fair process for all parties.

Can mediators make decisions for the parties involved?

No, mediators facilitate communication but don't impose decisions.

How long does a typical negotiation last?

It varies widely based on the complexity of the issues and the parties' willingness.

What about the outcome of mediation?

Mediation outcomes can be binding if formalized, but the process itself is voluntary.

Do all legal disputes require negotiation or mediation?

No, but they are often preferred alternatives to litigation.

Is mediation faster than litigation?

Typically, yes. Mediation can resolve disputes more quickly than court processes.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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