Proposals in Mediation and Negotiation

One of the things that you need to learn how to deal with properly when negotiating with someone is proposals.

Proposals are the building blocks of agreements.


What is a Proposal?

A proposal is a plan or a suggestion put forward for the consideration of another person.
In other words it is something you or the other person suggests. In mediation sometimes people get confused about proposals and think that they are demands and get defensive. Even if they are intended as demands you don’t have to treat them as if they are because in mediation you can not be forced to agree. 
Rather than getting defensive about proposals it is much more powerful for you to see them as opportunities to understand what the other person wants and for you to clearly explain to them what you want.  They are the building blocks of agreement because agreements are made up of proposals.

 How to make a proposal

In mediation the mediator will help you both to identify the issues that you are there to resolve and form an agenda to help guide the session.

Once that is done there will be time to explore each issue to try and get on the same page about what the issue is and how it is impacting each of you and any other people, especially children. 

Then it is time to explore options.  It isn’t great to make proposals until you understand the other persons point of view but whenever you think you see a workable solution to an issue it’s fine to make a proposal. 

Using a bit of a format for proposals can help. 

For example:

You might say: “I propose that the children spend time with me every second week from after school on Friday till school drop off on Monday.” 

They might say: “That’s crazy. Are you mad!”

The mediator might say: “Hang on a minute. Let’s keep this focused on what we are here for today and keep the communication respectful. Before you respond do you have any questions about what is being proposed?”

Questions about a proposal give people the chance to think and be clear rather than reacting emotionally. 

If someone puts a proposal to you then you should ask one or two questions about the proposal to give yourself time to think.

Asking questions also makes sure that you are clear about what they are proposing.

Sometimes people are not great at making proposals and your questions can help them to realise that what they are proposing isn’t going to work without you having to be the bad guy who rejects everything.

How to respond to a proposal

There are three possible ways to respond to a proposal after you have asked questions to make sure that you understand what is being proposed.

Your options are Yes, No or I’ll think about it. I’ll think about it isn’t something you  say to avoid saying no. Use that only if you really do want some time to think about the proposal and be prepared to give an answer as some point.

Sometimes the proposal might be really unexpected and you want to get some advice before you discount it or agree. That is fine.

You should not feel that you are being rushed into an agreement and remember that agreements reached in Mediation in Family  Law are not legally enforceable without taking further steps. That is a really valuable part of mediation because it leaves you free to make proposals and consider them without any risk.

If you do reach agreement remember that if you sign and date an agreement about children it is a Parenting Plan. Parenting Plans have legal status in Australia and must be considered by the judge if you do end up in court.

Yes No I'll think about it

More about Family Dispute Resolution

Some of our other posts and pages give more information about Family Dispute Resolution and how to prepare.


Agreements are better than orders when it comes to parenting

Why not practice making and considering proposals with your children? 

Teach your kids to make proposals rather than nagging and complaining.

When they want something ask them to tell you what their proposal is. Ask them questions to clarify and then answer yes, no or I’ll think about it and tell them when you will get back to them. 

That stops you doing a knee jerk reaction to something that might be really important to your child, teaches them negotiation skills and stops the nagging!

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by Joanne Law time to read: 3 min
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