The Third Side: Background Essays on Mediation

Background Essays on Mediation (click on links for more information)

The Mediator tries to get to the core of the dispute and help the parties resolve it. We may not think of it as mediation, but that is what we are doing whenever we listen attentively to people in dispute, when we ask them about what they really want, when we suggest possible approaches, and when we urge them to think hard about the costs of not reaching agreement. How mediation is carried out varies considerably from person to person, and case to case. Background information on mediation can be found in the essay Mediation — Overview.

Mediation can be done in a number of different ways. Leading approaches include:

  • Problem-Solving Mediation: Mediators using a problem-solving orientation view conflict as a problem that can be solved by reconciling interests to find a win-win solution.
  • Interest-Based Bargaining: Most problem-solving mediation uses interest-based bargaining as the underlying approach to reaching agreement.
  • BATNA: Part of interest-based bargaining is knowing your own and your opponents' BATNAs -- "Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement." Manipulating the BATNAs is one of the keys for establishing ripeness.
  • Transformative Mediation: The primary goal of transformative mediation is not to solve a problem, but rather to bring about deep changes in people and their interpersonal relationships. This essay describes how fostering parties' empowerment and recognition are key components of transformation.
  • Insider Partial Mediation: The North American model of mediation relies on an outside, impartial mediator to help parties resolve their problems. However, in other societies, people who are connected to the conflict, and even partial to one side, are often more effective mediators. This is because people trust them to be fair and they often play an active role in implementing and enforcing the agreement.

Mediation takes place in many different venues. Beyond Intractability has essays on:

As discussed above, mediation can be done either formally or informally. The essays on Formal Intermediaries and Track I Diplomacy discuss formal approaches; the essays on Informal Intermediaries and Track II Diplomacy describe informal approaches.

For More Information

Much of the material on this user guide is drawn from Thanks to William Ury and Joshua Weiss for giving us permission to republish their material here.