Gina T.: Hi everyone. Welcome to the Harmony Foundation podcast series. I’m pleased today to be joined with Amber Hill with Hilltop Mediation, and we’re going to be talking a little bit more about mediation services. It’s one of those things that people only hear about, usually, when there’s big conflict that’s going on and, usually, it’s family conflict and so I’m sure some folks are probably curious about mediators, and why Harmony.
So excited to talk with you a little bit more about what you do. You are a certified mediator. Most people think of mediators as those working with divorce, that’s what they typically think of, as an alternative to having an attorney. What does a mediator actually do?
Amber Hill: Thank you for having me, this has been really fun. I am a mediator, so I specialize in families and neighbors. Like you said, that can often be divorce. Attorneys may or may not be present, both are fine. That can also mean child support, it can mean spousal support, parenting time. It can be HOA disputes, property management disputes, noise disputes, all of those types of things.
The advantage of mediation is that people are self determining their own outcome. So, it’s a problem-solving approach that allows people to be the crafters of whatever they would sign, whatever that agreement may be. The alternative is court, of course, and so in court the judge makes the decision for you whether you’re happy with that decision or not. In mediation, it’s whatever both parties can agree too and live with.
Gina T.: It’s a little bit like you actually have a little bit more control over the outcome in some cases.
Amber Hill: Yeah, and so the mediator’s not enforcing anything, the mediator’s not providing legal recommendations. The mediator’s there really to help facilitate a process where people are defining exactly what it is that they want to define.
Gina T.: I can understand then why people would pick it because it just seemed like when you think of attorneys people get real anxious and nervous, and think about thousands and thousands of dollars, but using a mediator does feel like you have a little bit more freedom and control, and probably not nearly as expensive.
Amber Hill: Correct. It can be a much more cost-effective and more efficient process. Again, with court it’s whatever is on the docket, whatever has been coming across the judge’s plate. In mediation, it’s as soon as you can schedule it with a mediator and the other party. Again, attorneys may or may not be present, but the way that most mediation fees work, and the way my fees work is both parties are splitting the fee, and part of that is to ensure the neutrality of the mediator and not favoring one side or the other.
Gina T.: That’s a big part of that. You don’t want to look like you’re taking sides and being more like Switzerland, and being neutral, so that’s good.
Amber Hill: Right, yeah. Attorneys would be the advocates and then the mediator is the neutral, like you said, so they’re not taking either side.
Gina T.: How and why do you decide … how did you decide to pursue mediation? Did you wake up one day and go, “This seems like a really good thing to do?” Were you good at work resolving conflict? I would imagine you have to be really good at listening and looking at being in tense situations, and so what made you wake up one day and say, “I think I’d like to do this”?
Amber Hill: So, I think I’ve always been good at exploring deeper all sides of an issue. I don’t want to just see things from one lens. It’s more helpful to see things from multiple lenses, so my natural curiosity, I think, lent me to be an effective mediator in that sense. Then, I have a Master’s degree in conflict resolution, so that gives me the academic background to be relevant and skilled in the particular service that I offer.
In Colorado, there’s the Mediation Association of Colorado, is the overarching party. It’s an unregulated field in the sense that there’s no Bar Association, but the MAC is the closest that mediators have, and so I’m a professional of the MAC meaning I’ve achieved enough mediation hours to be counted as a professional.
Gina T.: So, you’re like a guru of mediation.
Amber Hill: That might be a little lofty for what I think of myself as, but I certainly have some skills to be effective.
Gina T.: Wonderful.
So,can you share more about Hilltop Mediation, and what would somebody get if they walked into your office? What kind of services would they expect to receive from you?
Amber Hill: Sure. So, part of what I offer is the education piece about what mediation can and cannot offer because there are a wide variety of ways that people can resolve conflict. Mediation’s one, court is another, you can also do arbitration, you can do settlement dispute. There’s a wide variety of options and so I think part of my role is to make sure people get the option that’s going to work best for them.
Then, if they hire me for my services, from there I work with both parties to schedule a time. Both parties put down a down payment in order to ensure the slot, so that one party doesn’t show up and the other doesn’t. We want to be sure that everyone is serious who’s involved. Then, from there, we schedule the mediation itself.
Gina T.: Then, it could last how long, typically? One session, multiple sessions?
Amber Hill: Depends on the nature of the dispute. So, if it’s neighbor to neighbor probably two hours. If it’s a divorce that can be a multiple sessions, multiple hours, but a divorce can be a multiple issues as well versus if it’s a single issue dispute it’s a quicker process.
Gina T.: I see. Well, we always like to get to know the person behind the program, and so I’m going to ask you a couple of interesting questions.
Amber Hill: Sure.
Gina T.: The first is, is if you had a giant billboard and you can put any phrase or saying on it to advertise to the world what would that phrase be?
Amber Hill: About Hilltop Mediation?
Gina T.: Anything you want it to be. It doesn’t just have to be about Hilltop. It could be about your life, your life mission, whatever that looks like. If you could advertise a saying to the world, what would that be?
Amber Hill: Sure. Well, that would be a fabulous marketing. So, for Hilltop I’d probably say mediation services for neighbors and families. Trying to keep it focused on the people in our lives who we’re likely going to have to see again. So, when we solve conflicts with them it might as well be a collaborative process, and one that we can live with for when we see them again. Versus if it’s more combative that’s harder to see that person again and it, certainly, damages the relationship.
For me, myself I’m not sure. I think I’d have a picture of the mountains.
Gina T.: Nice.
Amber Hill: It’s always good to get that refresher view of nature and the calming …
Gina T.: I’m with you.
Amber Hill: Presence. Yeah.
Gina T.: Then, if I were to give you the word ‘harmony’ what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?
Amber Hill: So, for me, harmony would mean living with wellness, with clarity, and with intentionality, and so that can go into all aspects of life, I think. Go into the financial, the relational, the health aspect.
Gina T.: That’s great. Well, thanks for sharing that Amber, it’s been really great having you here at Harmony today. If somebody were listening and wanted to access your mediation services how could they get in touch with you?
Gina T.: Perfect. It was so nice to meet you.
Amber Hill: Yeah, thank you so much. I appreciate it Gina.