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6 - Mediation Strategy

One way of thinking about mediation practice is to consider various styles or approaches to facilitating agreement. Three mediation approaches are here considered: 

1. The Interest-Based Option Generation Approach;

2. The Hypothesis Generation and Testing Approach; and

3. The Doubt and Dissonance Approach.

To some extent, mediator approaches will be determined by the nature of the dispute and the parties expectations. For example, in a distributive personal injury case, there may be a tendency toward the utilization of doubt and dissonance as a primary means of inducing the flexibility necessary for the parties to reach agreement. In contexts where speed and efficiency of resolution are important or where the parties appear unable to effectively work together, a mediator centered hypothesis generation and testing style may make sense. In situations where there are multiple issues, the parties have the time and a willingness to work together or there is interest in an ongoing relationship, an interest- based option generation approach may lead to what the parties perceive to be both their best possible process and result. In taking any specific mediation approach, the mediator should be wary of prematurely evaluating the situation or imposing one's own biases about how certain types of conflict can best be resolved on the parties.

Another way of viewing mediation styles is to consider the various techniques and tools involved in each approach in their own right. Each specific facilitative tool may be able to be utilized either as part of an overall conception approach or in a more ad hoc, intuitive way. In being open to placing the various techniques in your mediation tool box, it is perhaps most important to understand what each technique can accomplish. A good part of effective mediation, like any other complex challenge, is perceiving what needs to be accomplished and being aware of the various tools and techniques that can be utilized to accomplish the desired end. In this sense, effectively organizing one's toolbox is as important as the tools and techniques themselves. Consider organizing your toolbox by purposes, such as "rapport development techniques;" "identifying agreement direction techniques;" "creating flexibility techniques;" "empowerment techniques" and the like. Unquestionably, the most valuable techniques of all are "techniques for when you don't know what to do next."

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