Comments: The ‘Truthiness’ Virus Has Infected The Conflict Management Field

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Robert , New York NY   06/08/08
It seems to me that this article is just an argument to have the old broken litigation system carried over into mediation. The whole reason why meditation started is because of the extreme dissatisfaction with traditional competitive litigation with it's scorched earth tactics. The author of this article does not see that when parties to a conflict take a selfish me first attitude that only focuses on the bottom line then everyone loses. The type of tactics that this author advocates are just a continuation of the old broken system. I am confident that this old style of mediation will pass away as more and more people come into the conflict resolution field with new ideas about the transformational potential of mediation. The author labels any approach that he does not like as truthiness. Fine so be it because the reason why the field of conflict resolution is changing is because people are sick and tired of the types of selfish, me first attitudes that our justice system and our larger society encourages. Transforming mediation and business is just the first step in this process of changing our society and I salute the conflict resolution professionals who are challanging the old ways of thinking that have proved so disasterous. A new age is dawning where competitiveness is being replaced by cooperation and where old fashioned litigation is being replaced by transformative mediation. Businesses and mediators (such as the author of that article) who do not see that are destined for the dustpile of history.

Larry Carney, Grand Island NE     02/15/07
Thank you for your comments about 'Truthiness' and its dangers. Your call for the conflict management field to pay more attention to the thoughts arising from other, seemingly unrelated, disciplines points to the door of an old, musty room that emits a familiar but unpleasant smell. Mediation has been in that musty, old room too long. You discribe mediation (the only form of conflict management with which I have firsthand experience)as being "formulaic." This discription I firmly agree with. One of the reasons for the formulaic condition, I believe, is that there are many people within the mediation community who have a vested interest in resisting change of almost any kind. These people, among others, are directors of mediation centers, trainers, authors of various texts and mediators themselves. Some members of one or more of these groups are self-appointed guardians of the holy writ of mediation; and woe be to those "heretics" who might differ with the priests and priestesses who write, administer and interpret that 'holy writ.' However, I remember the difficulty that was had by one of the mediation centers as they struggled with what the attributes of a certified mediator should look like. Similarly, I can see a struggle forming over what other disciplines should be admitted into 'holy writ.' What is the connection with mediation? How does the study of warfare make one a better mediator? How do we measure the value to mediation of a contribution that comes from an outside source that is seemingly unrelated? What is the connection? What does a good (excellent?) mediator look like, anyway? Is there a benchmark mediator out there, or does each mediator have her own style? What you have written is certainly important and necessary. So, now what do we do? Are there any trainers out there (such as yourself) that can show the way? Concernedly, Larry Carney

Jim Melamed, Eugene OR   02/03/07
Categorization of this Article
As a piece of information, this article is currently categorized as "communication," "conflict theory," "humor," "negotiation, and "mediation policy." You can also most effectively search for articles and also rich media resources at Also note that you can see all of Robert Benjamin's writings and other resources at Best to all. Jim Melamed

Riis Öland   02/02/07
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. This is a very interesting article ...very thought provoking. I just can't figure out how it wound up under the topic "Humor." Glad I stumbled upon it.

Susan Glatki , MA   10/20/06
The emperor
It sounds like you are saying the emperor has no clothes. Your words pose interesting thoughts, especially since you are considered to be one of the tailors, and that is not how the original story went. Maybe you are saying that the emperor needs to see where his clothes are made and whether the materials are organic, synthetic or man-made; Whether the clothes are broadcloth or not, tightly woven or loosely stitched. My closet (“toolbox”) is full of pants, skirts, dresses, shirts, sweaters, all made from different materials and by different tailors and I wear what is appropriate for the climate. I currently live in the real world of New England and not on some tropical island where one bikini fits all.

Kem Lowry, Honolulu   09/13/06
It was just a matter of time before someone worked "truthiness" into a conference presentation or academic paper. I think this paper also works as "Myths of Mediation Practice," but that wouldn't attract the same conference crowd. I thought the paper was provocative and fun (and au courant to use one of your French phrases). But in addition to your pokes at a bunch of folks there are some more serious issues to be addressed. One of the fish in the barrel at which you take aim is the "how-to" mediation (or muscle-building) advice. Yes, there are lots of "10 strategies for more effective mediation" articles and papers out there and, yes, it's possible that the rules or principles will be applied mindlessly by people who haven't read Thomas C. Schelling, et al. There's a tension between propositional knowledge (knowledge about) and prescriptive knowledge ("how to") (or between episteme and techne). Some prescriptions have a very narrow epistemic base---and yes, some practitioners are insufficiently attentive to the theoretical bases of their actions--but so are some doctors, marine biologists and baseball managers. I confess I'm an avid consumer of the 6 principles, 9 paths and 11 techniques readings (ok, less so in the 11 techniques these days--I've pretty much mastered the two essentials). But the thing is, the best mediators I know are not always that well versed in the theory, but they know the practice principles--and they're prepared to throw theory and practice principles out the window when they deem it necessary. What attracts me about the field is the artisan-ship of the best practitioners---the constant testing of the "principles" like "separate the people from the problem" (you don't think that works?) and the continuing willingness to reflect on practice and revise practice prescriptions based on experience. So the point is...many of these prescriptions aren't "truthiness." They're rough maps. They can help get us part way where we're going...