The irrepresible Michael Leathes is a collector of quotes. Little does he know that one of the early walks I had with him produced a quote of his own that I have always kept pinned on the corkboard of my mind: “It costs no more to think big than to think small.”
In a characteristically provocative and entertaining article, “Stop Shoveling Smoke!“, Leathes challenges our tolerance of vagueness in defining our own field. Why, he asks, is there no broadly accepted definition of the term “mediation”? Oddly for one so deeply steeped in cross-cultural subtleties, Leathes firmly believes not only that there is a universally applicable definition of “mediation,” but that it can be defined in seven words:
“Consensus facilitated by a trusted neutral person.”
Lots of good concepts there, though the “by” and the “a” seem to take up a bit of space. In the comments section of Mediate.Com, where the article is posted, some folks note that it really is the facilitation of ”negotiation” rather than “consensus,” while others question if it is mediation even when consensus is not achieved.
But I put it to my loyal readers: A cross-culturally acceptable and intellectually rigorous definition of mediation, seven words or less. Anyone? Anyone?