The Third Side: Overcoming Obstacles to Mediation

Overcoming Obstacles to Mediation

Common obstacles to effective mediation include lack of trust among participants and poor communication. The following essays offer insight about such obstacles and how to address them.

  • Misunderstandings: Parties in conflict often misunderstand each other's intentions and messages and make negative assumptions about the other side. This essay describes the sources of misunderstanding and how to avoid it.
  • Distrust: Distrust is the confident expectation that another individual's motives, intentions, and behaviors are sinister and harmful to one's own interests. Our distrust of others is likely to evoke a competitive stance that stimulates and exacerbates conflict. This can pose obstacles for effective mediation.
  • Interpersonal/Small-Scale Communication: Parties caught in conflict often fail to understand the views and intents of the other side. This essay explores various strategies for improving interpersonal communication and preventing misunderstandings.
  • Channels of Communication: During an intractable conflict, there is often little sharing among parties of information, intents, and beliefs. This essay discusses the importance of re-establishing lines of communication.
  • Cross-Cultural Communication: Insofar as it draws on ways we have learned to speak and give nonverbal messages, all communication is cultural. When there are significant cultural differences between communicators, misunderstandings that generate or aggravate conflict are likely to result. Understanding the challenges of cross-cultural communication is often crucial for effective mediation.

For More Information


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