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Free «Mediation Approaches» Essay Sample


Mediation is an essential conflict resolution mechanism that involves the intervention of a third party in resolving a dispute in a relationship or process. Mediation is widely used in solving contract disputes, consumer disputes, neighborhood disputes, and family disputes. The mediation process is usually a voluntary process, in which the parties of the conflict solve the disputes between themselves with an independent third party overseeing the process. In addition, it is a strictly confidential process, in which the disputants are required not to disclose the terms of their discussion to outside parties. The costs of the mediation process are shared equally amongst the disputants, and the amount of costs is influenced by the value and complexity of the disputants’ conflict. There exist three mechanisms that are applied in the mediation process, and these are the problem-solving approach, the transformative approach, and the narrative approach. Each approach is unique and their applicability is dependent on the nature and complexity of the problem faced. Given the differences in application, the three different mediation techniques vary depending on the assumptions about conflict, persons involved, changes and human relationships. In addition, they can also be differentiated given their differences concerning the roles of the mediator and the goals of the mediation process. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to discuss the differences that exist between the mediation techniques in light of the differences in assumptions in terms of various mediation approaches.

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The Assumptions of the Three Mediation Techniques about the Person

The arbitration process is considered to be an informal process that involves an independent and neutral third party calling the shots (Moore, 2003). The neutral party appointed by the parties of conflict has no power to develop and impose a resolution. However, the mediator facilitates the mediation process by ensuring that the disputing parties are able to discuss the conflicting matters and reach a mutually acceptable settlement. Thus, the consensuality and informality aspects are the essential and most common features of the three different mediation techniques. Despite these similarities, there exist significant differences amongst the intervention techniques in regard to the assumptions about the person. The mediator is the main individual that plays a crucial role in the whole negotiation process.

The problem-solving approach is a more settlement-oriented approach and thus, there is less focus on the individual; instead, it focuses more on the conflict. Given that the mediator plays a starring role in enabling the disputants to reach a mutually agreeable settlement, the involvement of the parties of the dispute is limited. In addition, it is focused on developing a resolution that will enable the parties to move away from the conflict rather than enabling the parties to empower themselves (Bush & Folger, 2004). Thus, the person who is less involved in the whole mediation process is the conflicting party, and the other person is overshadowed by the settlement-oriented mediator.  On the other hand, the transformative approach differs from the facilitative approach as it focuses more on the individual. According to Bush and Folger (2004), the disputing parties are provided with the requisite skills and knowledge that they require so as to solve their issues amicably. In addition, the disputants are solely responsible for the outcome of the mediation process and the independent person in the conflict creates an environment of mutual recognition and empowerment of the individuals.

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The narrative approach differs from the problem-solving approach in regard to the theory of the individual as it focuses on such person’s participation in the intercessory process. The mechanism assumes that individuals can only generate ideas through a storytelling process in which they are able to constitute plots, roles, and themes (Winslade & Monk, 2001). Thus, the dispute resolution technique puts more emphasis on the storytelling metaphor of the individuals that are involved in the conflict. Furthermore, the point of view of the disputants is affected by the socio-cultural context rather than the ultimate objective and thus, the technique ignores the validity of the representations made. Given that the narrative method of mediation relies on the storytelling capabilities of the disputing parties, the effectiveness of the model will thus be affected by the language in which the stories are designed and told.

The Assumptions of the Three Mediation Methods about the Role of the Mediator

The mediator acts as a neutral and independent third party who is responsible for helping the parties of conflict arrive at a mutually agreeable settlement. Across the three different arbitration techniques, the mediators are required to avoid making judgments, taking sides, or issuing guidelines to the parties. Instead, brokers play a crucial role in building consensus between the aggrieved parties and coming up with effective systems of communication that will be used by the parties in dispute throughout the mediation process. However, there exist inherent differences regarding the role of the mediator in the whole mediation process from the planning stage to the final stage of developing a mutually agreeable solution. In the problem-solving mediation, the mediator plays a crucial role as an expert who directs the problem-solving process by focusing on the development of settlement that will quickly solve the current problem. Thus, the mediator’s role in facilitative mediation is to direct the parties of conflict towards a mutually agreeable solution.

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In addition, according to the problem-solving mediation approach, the mediator is tasked with the responsibility of directing the whole arbitration process in all of the four stages of the intercessory process. The arbitrator comes up with a plan on how the process will be conducted and outlines the purpose of the process from the onset. Given that the mediator is settlement-oriented, he or she explains the intended purpose of the arbitration and assists the disputants with realizing the goal. In addition to this, the facilitator encourages the disputing parties to focus on the future and avoid the past that may lead to unending blaming games that may make the whole process too long. Additionally, the mediator plays a role of proposing a potential alternative to the current predicaments ailing the parties of the dispute in case they fail to come up with a solution themselves. Thus, the problem-solving approach assumes that the primary responsibility of the mediator is to guide or direct the parties towards settlement of the dispute.

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On the other hand, the transformative approach assumes that the mediator’s role is secondary, and the conflicting parties are considered to be the experts. The parties that are in conflict are considered to possess the necessary capacity and motivation that is critical for solving their own issues with minimum external help. Thus, the role of the arbitrator is to offer minimal support to the parties by being responsive to the parties when needed. The mediator has the responsibility of encouraging the mutual recognition of the identity and relational issues amongst the parties. Such a responsibility that is bestowed on the arbitrator is aimed at ensuring that the parties express their sentiments given that they are empowered and recognized as key players of the whole process. Also, the mediator has the primary responsibility of encouraging the conflicting parties to deliberate on the situation and analyze the existing options themselves.

The responsibility of the arbitrator in terms of the transformative approach differs significantly from that of the facilitative mediator given that the latter focuses on empowering the parties to solve their issues on their own. On the other hand, the former focuses on the responsibility of the arbitrator in directing the whole mediation process towards a specified goal. In terms of the narrative approach, the liability of the arbitrator is to work closely with the parties towards finding a possible solution to their problems. In this approach, the mediator is assigned key responsibilities that have an enormous impact on the mediation outcome. The mediator’s role in the conflict stories of the disputing parties is to create an enabling environment that can support the conflict narratives of the disputants. It is because the physical setting in which the parties narrate their conflict stories is affected by the identity of the parties. In addition, the mediator is tasked with working out explicit questioning techniques that will be used to explore and elicit the unique outcomes of the narrative mediation and the un-storied experiences.

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The Assumptions of the Three Mediation Techniques about the Goals of the Mediation Process

The main objective of any negotiation process is to enable the parties that are in conflict to reach a mutually-agreeable solution taking into account the concerns and reservations. Given that mediation is a voluntary process, the parties that are in conflict are to resolve their disputes under the guidance of an independent and neutral party. Thus, the primary focus of any arbitration process is to enable the parties to reach a joint settlement that is acceptable for the both sides. The goal of the problem-solving mediation is to solve the dispute between the disputants.  The conflict resolution goal of this approach perfectly correlates with the primary responsibility of the arbitrator to direct the problem-solving process. The problem-solving mediation is a settlement-oriented approach of mediation whose ultimate success is defined by a mutually-agreeable settlement. It thus focuses primarily on the parties’ interests and situation by scouring for opportunities for mutually satisfactory agreements and mutual gains.

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On the other hand, the objective of transformative mediation is to ensure that there exists mutual recognition of the parties and empowerment. Thus, the negotiation process focuses on the interactions amongst the disputants by looking for the existing opportunities for empowerment and mutual recognition. The transformative mediation’s definition of success involves enhancement of the parties’ mutual recognition and/or empowerment. In terms of this approach, the arbitrator aims at directly empowering the parties to resolve their issues amicably through minimal interference and involvement. In addition, given that the primary focus of the transformative technique is empowerment and mutual recognition, the approach is highly effective where there are no pre-set stages as evident from facilitative mediation. If to compare the facilitative and transformative approaches to narrative mediation, it is evident that there also exist substantial differences in regard to the primary objectives of the process. The two major goals of the narrative mediation include ensuring that there is active participation of the parties who aim at coming to a mutually-agreeable settlement of the conflict.

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The Assumptions of the Mediation Techniques about Conflict

In any dispute-resolution process, there exists a conflict between the parties that requires settlement. It is the conflict that exists between the disputants and requires a mediator to undertake the dispute resolution process. Thus, the primary goal of the arbitration techniques is to develop a settlement that is agreeable to all parties based on the facts of the matters that are considered to be causing disagreements. The nature of the conflicts and the way they are handled differ amongst the three approaches of mediation. In terms of the transformative approach, there exists an assumption about conflict that it is an opportunity to ensure that there is moral growth and transformation. Under this approach, the conflict between the interested parties is viewed as an opportunity for the disputants to be self-empowered and recognized as equal partners in the arrangement.

In addition, conflict under the transformative approach is assumed as a long-term process that involves the parties taking their time in coming up with the solution to their problems. Furthermore, conflict in transformative mediation is viewed as an opportunity not to come up with an alternative, but help the parties solve any future issues amicably. However, under the narrative and problem-solving approaches, the assumption about conflict is that any dispute that occurs is a problem that requires a solution. Additionally, both the narrative and facilitative mediation efforts assume that conflict is a short-term event that requires a speedy solution so as to restore the parties to their initial positions before the conflict occurred. In terms of problem-solving mediation, collaborative steps are taken by the arbitrator and the parties towards identifying a potential solution to the conflict. In addition, the narrative approach suggests that there should be created a physical environment of storytelling about the parties’ conflict that will lead to settlement.

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The Assumptions of the Mediation Techniques about Change

The narrative approach bridges the gap that exists between the macro-level and micro-level by creating a link between the idiosyncratic stories of the individuals and the dominant societal level discourse (Winslade & Monk, 2001). In effecting change, the narrative approach relies on the therapeutic mediation style that involves substantial bargaining between the disputing parties. In addition, the narrative approach creates organizational change by increasing the level of understanding amongst the different parties, promoting compromise and overcoming the relationship problems. On the other hand, the assumptions about the change under the problem-solving approach revolve around the successful and speedy resolution of the conflict. In terms of the facilitative approach, change is achieved when the mediator who acts as a guide in the whole problem-solving process comes up with a settlement that is mutually agreeable. Thus, change is realized upon settlement of the dispute. In the transformative approach, change is accomplished when the parties are empowered and recognized by the others. In addition, change is evident when the parties have developed the capacity and motivation to solve their problems with minimal input from the arbitrator.

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The Assumptions of the Mediation Techniques about the Theories of Human Relationships

The nexus between the disputants is better explained by the strategies that are used to resolve such conflicts. In problem-solving mediation, the relationship between the parties is settlement-oriented with no regard to the emotions of the parties. In the narrative approach, the human relationships are emphasized concerning the narration of the conflict stories by the parties in conflict. The relationships are thus evident in the stories that lead to settlement. However, in the transformative mediation approach, the human relationships are based on mutual recognition and empowerment of the parties.


Mediation is an essential conflict resolution tool that enables the parties to develop mutually agreeable settlements. There exist different forms of carrying out mediation such as problem-solving, transformative, and narrative approaches and these dispute resolution mechanisms differ. The variations are a result of their inherent assumptions about the role of the mediator, goals of the mediation process, human relationship assumptions, and theories of the personality, conflict, and change.

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