Mediating Interpersonal Conflicts
By Mark S. Umbreit
Summary written by Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: Mediating Interpersonal Conflicts, Mark S. Umbreit. (West Concord, Minnesota: CPI Publishing, 1995), 292 pp.
Mediating Interpersonal Conflicts examines contemporary uses of mediationto resolve interpersonal conflicts. The author explores the healing potential of mediation.
Mediating Interpersonal Conflicts will be of interest to those who seek to understand current uses of mediation, and to explore the healing potential of mediation. This work is divided into ten chapters grouped into three parts, with appendices containing further resource materials for interpersonal mediation.
Part I describes mediation and conflict generally. The author see conflict as an inevitable part of life. Chapter One distinguishes between constructive and destructive conflicts and describes the five basic conflict management styles. Umbreit argues that goodcommunication skills are the key to effective conflict resolution. He describes the importance of information sharing, reflective listening, assertion, conflict management and problem- solving. The chapter concludes by describing the key points and basic process of negotiation. Chapter Two presents a generic model of mediation. The author breaks the mediation process down into phases, and then describes the specific taskswhich should be addresses in each phase. He also contrasts directiveand nondirective styles of mediation. This chapter concludes by considering the impact of cultural differences on the mediation process.
Each chapter in Part II examines a contemporary application of mediationto a particular area of conflict. Chapter Three explores communitymediation. Chapter Four looks at school mediation. Chapter Five examines the use of mediation in divorce and child-custodydisputes. Chapter Six explores the use of mediation in child-parentconflicts. Chapter Seven discusses victim-offender mediation. Chapter Eight describes the use of informal mediation for staff conflict in human services. Each chapter concludes with a brief discussion of research findings in that area, and an examination of unresolved issues for the use of mediation for that type of conflict.
The remaining chapters in Part III explore the dangers and opportunities presented by a mediation approach to resolving interpersonal conflicts. The dangers posed by increasing use of mediation include difficulties in monitoring quality standards and the privatization of conflicts which have an important social component. Opportunities for expanding the use of mediation include expanding its use in managing staffconflicts, in the rehabilitation of violent criminals, and teaching mediation skills in elementary and secondary schools. Chapter Ten explores the potential of mediation to transform and heal human relationships. The author presents a humanistic mediation model, designed to enhance mediation's transformative potential. Humanistic mediation draws on a healing paradigm, as opposed to a problem- solving paradigm.
Appendices reprint the following essays: "The Dynamics of Powerin Mediation and Negotiation" by Bernard Mayer, "Mediation and Therapy" by William Bradshaw, "Influencing Unconscious Influences: The healing dimension of mediation" by Lois Gold, and "A Native Model of Mediation" by Marg Huber. Further appendices present professional standards for social work mediators, and resources for technical assistance and mediation training.
Mediating Interpersonal Conflicts describes the process and uses of mediation, and argues for the transformative potential of mediation. While it does describe mediation techniques, it focuses on the spirit, attitudes and basic beliefs which underlie effective mediation.