Comments: Party-Directed Mediation: Pre-Caucus Empowers Party-Directed Joint Session

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Gregorio Billikopf, Modesto CA     11/15/12
Party-Directed Mediation alive and well
Dear Neil: Many thanks for your comments and the invitation to say a little more about Party-Directed Mediation (PDM). I am thrilled to report that we continue to make refinements and learn new things to make the process even more effective. Interested readers may download a free copy of the second edition of the book in English (Google Party-Directed Mediation). The third edition of the book in Spanish is now in press, and the second edition may be downloaded from my page (Google Mediación Interpersonal). Indeed, I agree that PDM is centered squarely in the transformative end of the continuum. Having said that, the parties are challenged during the pre-caucuses. Increasingly, we are using the small hammer approach to challenging. This means that individuals are challenged very gently and then we permit time to promote the fermentation of positive feelings. Best, Gregorio

Neil Donnelly, Kingston,ON. Canada     11/02/12
Party-Directed mediation
I have just 'rediscovered' this 2004 article in my archives while researching various mediation approaches. In my experience with workplace mediation I can confirm favourable results with pre-caucus meetings and have nothing negative to report. Reflecting on the spectrum of mediation approaches ( models,styles) I would place Party-Directed mediation, with its focus on the parties themselves taking increased involvement, near the Transformative Model on the spectrum, in so far as they both subscribe to 'following'rather than 'leading' the parties in addressing their dispute/conflict. I am interested in what feedback and continued results the authors have received.

Gregorio Billikopf, Modesto CA     05/17/05
Update on Party-Directed Mediation
Party-Directed Mediation is an approach that seeks to empower each party: to offer contenders negotiation skills that will help them direct the resolution of the present conflict and increased ability to deal with future conflict. As people become more talented negotiators, they tend to deal more effectively with conflict. The two most important elements of party-directed mediation generally include 1) a meeting between the mediator and each of the parties prior to the joint session (in a pre-caucus or pre-mediation) and 2) a joint session where parties face each other, and speak directly to each other rather than through the mediator. In some instances, the pre-caucus may be so effective that parties go on to solve their conflict without a mediator. In fact, most people solve most conflicts they face without a mediator. There are times, however, when mediators are very much needed. Whenever people speak about empowering the parties, there seems to be quite a negative—if not defensive—reaction among some mediators and scholars. This resentment is partly justified. Those who promote party empowerment sometimes imply that such an approach is better than other mediation styles. I can think of conflicts where I simply wanted the problem to go away. Such was the case, for instance, when I had long ago discarded proof that I had paid for car insurance coverage during a Sabbatical in Chile. A year and half later I got a nasty letter from a collection agency. This was the first and only note forwarded to me. It was hard dealing with this situation from so far away. You can believe I was relieved when one of my brothers, who lives in Chile, contacted the insurance agency and played mediator between us. I hardly new the people involved, and had no interest in mutual validation, transformative opportunities, or the like. There are other types of conflicts, especially those of an interpersonal nature, or those that involve people who will continue to live or work or interact, that can greatly benefit from party empowerment. This is when party-directed mediation can play a big role. This does not mean that the mediator has nothing to say or contribute. There are large portions of the pre-caucus where, indeed, the mediator mostly listens through an empathic listening approach. This active listening approach was developed by Carl Rogers and best described in his book, Client-Centered Therapy. But there is also time for the mediator to help prepare each party to become a more effective negotiator. When the parties arrive at the joint session, they face and talk to each other. There are specific questions the mediator can ask the parties before bringing them together, to find out if they are indeed ready to face each other in such a direct manner, and do so in a civil way. More harm than good can take place when parties are not ready for the joint session, and use it as a safe ground to simply insult each other further. The concept behind Party-Directed Mediation, then, is that to the degree that the case lends itself to it, and the individuals wish to spend the time and acquire the skills to become more effective negotiators, that they can be empowered to do so. Just as people today are more likely to ask for a second opinion when it comes to their health and doctor’s recommendations, there are those who wish to have a greater hand in solving their own conflicts. Some cases may involve a little bit of empowerment, while others almost complete empowerment. Some cases, such as in some victim-offender mediation, may take months of preparation and baby-steps to help the parties come together into a joint session where they face and speak to each other. Other cases, as we have said, are solved by individuals after a friend provides a good listening ear and they gather the confidence to face the other party on their own. Gregorio Billikopf, 17 May 2005