1, Number 4, Nov/Dec 2000
About Variations in Campus Mediator Style
mediators become more sophisticated, and as the number
of mediators and the range of settings where they work
increases, so has the debate about how one should mediate,
and what styles are most appropriate for any particular
setting. In terms of format, programs can now choose (consciously
or by default based on their choice of trainers) among
a growing variety of mediation "styles." These differing
approaches are given labels that are perhaps best understood
as the endpoints on various continuums. A mediator's style
may now be described as bargaining vs therapeutic,
problem-solving vs transformative, evaluative
vs facilitative, or settlement-oriented vs restorative,
among other terms. A discussion of these different mediation
varieties and all their subtleties is beyond the scope
of this brief article. However, a general awareness of
the different orientations is useful as programs determine
their intended audience and consider what model would
be most fitting. For
instance, if a mediation program is designed to serve
the community as well as campus, welcoming group disputes
or so-called town-gown conflicts, the program must be
capable of managing multi-sided and often multi-party
conflicts. Often, the disputants in these cases have ongoing
relationships; therefore, it would be important for the
training to value and recognize that conflict is often
set in a context of deep personal emotion that often is
only ambiguously related to the immediate issues. However,
if a program is linked to the Business School or Labor
Relations Program within a college, serving largely contractual
disputes, the philosophy of the mediators might be informed
by collective bargaining characteristics such as bi-polarity
and the need to reach a settlement that takes the form
of a written agreement, requiring a training model compatible
with this approach. Perhaps the program is designed to
focus solely on students, building on the belief that
mediation is a vehicle for personal change with an emphasis
on future behavior. This too would effect the emphasis
of the training. These kind of general philosophical assumptions
can influence the choice of training model that best fits
a campus's needs.
vs Facilitative Approaches
most commonly discussed style differences these days involve
those between evaluative and facilitative mediators, and
between the problem-solving versus the transformative
model of mediation. Briefly stated, evaluative mediators
are characterized as more prone to actively narrowing
the topics for discussion, pushing hard for settlement,
giving the parties their opinion of what seems fair, and
of what a person's "case is worth," and working to narrow
the "settlement range" in hopes that parties will agree.
Facilitative mediators, on the other hand, are described
as being much less controlling of the process, leaving
the choice of topics and the evaluation of options clearly
in the hands of the parties. Building on the increasing
popularity of this kind of distinction, a mediator
style survey by Krivis and Macadoo is now available
that asks mediators a series of questions to determine
where they fit in terms of being evaluative broad, evaluative
narrow, or facilitative broad, or facilitative narrow.
vs Transformative Approaches
distinction between problem-solving and transformative
approaches to mediation is also commonly discussed among
mediators. The introductory material from a website
devoted to transformative mediation describes the
essential differences as follows:
goal of problem solving mediation is generating a mutually
acceptable settlement of the immediate dispute. Problem
solving mediators are often highly directive in their
attempts to reach this goal--they control not only the
process, but also the substance of the discussion, focusing
on areas of consensus and "resolvable" issues, while
avoiding areas of disagreement where consensus is less
likely. Although all decisions are, in theory, left
in the hands of the disputants, problem solving mediators
often play a large role in crafting settlement terms
and obtaining the parties' agreement.
transformative approach to mediation does not seek resolution
of the immediate problem, but rather, seeks the empowerment
and mutual recognition of the parties involved. Empowerment,
according to Bush and Folger, means enabling the parties
to define their own issues and to seek solutions on
their own. Recognition means enabling the parties to
see and understand the other person's point of view--to
understand how they define the problem and why they
seek the solution that they do. (Seeing and understanding,
it should be noted, do not constitute agreement with
empowerment and recognition pave the way for a mutually
agreeable settlement, but that is only a secondary effect.
The primary goal of transformative medition is to foster
the parties' empowerment and recognition, thereby enabling
them to approach their current problem, as well as later
problems, with a stronger, yet more open view. This
approach, according to Bush and Folger, avoids the problem
of mediator directiveness which so often occurs in problem-solving
mediation, putting responsibility for all outcomes squarely
on the disputants. (Burgess, 1997)
vs Therapeutic Approaches
third (and rather similar) common style distinction
is between bargaining versus therapeutic approaches.
Back in 1985 Sally Merry and Susan Silbey, both professors
at Wellesley College, identified many mediation styles
on a continuum between "bargaining" and "therapy." At
the "bargaining" end of the continuum, one finds mediators
who have a negative view of the legal system because
it is costly, slow, and inaccessible. At the same time,
people who use a bargaining method feel their authority
rests in their expert understanding of the law and the
court system. At the other end of the continuum, mediators
with a "therapy" style view the legal system negatively
because they believe that it deteriorates personal relationships.
Those working in this mode see their authority residing
in their expertise in managing personal relationships.
Below are two charts listing the characteristics of
each end of the continuum as identified by Merry and
of mediationis to reach a settlement.
more time in individual sessions.
parties know what they want.
on demands that can be traded off.
conflict is caused by differences of interests.
settlement can be reached by trading of benefits.
of mediation is to help parties reach their own settlement.
direct communication between parties.
parties do not always know what they want.
parties to define their real issues.
the source of conflict is a result of misunderstanding
or failure of communication.
resolution of conflict through rational discussion
should be apparent, there is much overlap between these
different categorizations of the field. As commonly portrayed,
the bargaining, evaluative, and problem-solving styles are
very rooted in a pragmatic and often positional interests
approach to conflict resolution, while the therapeutic,
facilitative and transformative approaches are much more
personal ones that seek to discover common personal interests
and the clarification of values. Within the field of practicing
mediators there are a variety of combinations of these characteristics
creating a wide range of styles.
seems most important is identifying those qualities that
would best serve the needs of the program's targeted population.
For example, a case between the administration and physical
plant workers might be best served by a more "bargaining"
approach to mediation, while a case involving formerly dating
students might be better handled by a more "therapeutic"
approach. Over time, it probably makes sense to have mediators
representing a variety of styles available on campus so
a wide assortment of cases could be handled effectively.
Finally, it should also be noted that each mediator will
contribute his or her own personal style: tone of voice,
view of the world, physical conduct, and ethics, all of
which will affect the shape of the process.
addition to a host of journal articles, there are a number
of books that can help you develop a deeper understanding
of the range of mediation styles. Christopher Moore's book
The Mediation Process (Moore, 1996) provides a sophisticated
review of the mediation process and the techniques mediators
use across a range of settings. Another key book called
The Promise of Mediation (Bush and Folger, 1994)
contrasts the problem-solving and transformative approaches
to mediation, advocating for the latter. Finally, you may
be interested in reading When Talk Works (Kolb, 1994)
as it provides detailed portraits of mediators utilizing
different styles as they actually carry out their work.
campus mediation work, it pays to be style conscious!
NOTE: Portions of this article appeared previously in Bill
Warters' book Mediation in the Campus Community: Designing
and Managing Effective Programs (Jossey-Bass, 2000)
project of Campus Conflict Resolution
Supported by a FIPSE grant from the US Department of Education
and seed money from the Hewlett Foundation-funded CRInfo
to CMHE Report
(Attn: Bill Warters)
Campus Conflict Resolution Resources Project
Department of Communication
585 Manoogian Hall
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48201.
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