Comments: Understanding Mediators' Orientations, Strategies, And Techniques: A Grid For The Perplexed

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Susan Oberman, Charlottesville VA   04/07/10
Riskin's grid
While this article has proven to be seminal in the mediation field, it sets up a false dichotomy in the categories of evaluative and facilitative mediation. I contend in my article "Mediation Theory vs. Practice: What Are We Really Doing?" published in 2005, that all mediators both evaluate and facilitate and that Ellen Waldman's analysis naming three categories: norm-generating, norm-educating and norm-advocating, clarifies and differentiates what mediators do in a way that is far more accurate. Riskin's terms while helpful in differentiating a range of mediator practices, do not actually predict what a mediator will do. Riskin revised this article in 2003, slightly changing the labels for his categories and presenting us with more grids. He stated in a Virginia Mediation Network conference keynote speech in 2003 that he never intended these to be either/or categories. That said, the mediation community has for some reason clung to them as a way to meet the standard for providing parties with information about the mediation process that fulfills the requirement of self-determination of the parties. It doesn't. In my article in 2009, Style vs. Model: Why Quibble?" I again argue that Waldman's categories are a more accurate and efficient way to inform parties about the mediator's model. It would alleviate the ongoing confusion of and misrepresentation by mediators, to use Waldman's analysis.