I have already highly recommended the new book Challenging Conflict: Mediation Through Understanding (from Amazon). Now I would like to highly recommend to you the interview Nancy Hudgins conducted of the book's coauthor Gary Friedman.
She leads off by asking Friedman to explain the Understanding Method. He responds:
We all, parties and lawyers, tend to be conflict avoiders. In the Understanding Method, we offer people in conflict a way to work together to make decisions by surfacing the conflict in order to understand it. In this method, the mediator offers support, provides a safe place to talk about the underlying issues, and actively works to help the parties themselves find creative and constructive ways to resolve it. Why? Because the people in conflict are in the best position to determine the wisest solution for their dispute.
Later on in the interview, Hudgins asks Friedman, "What do you see as drawbacks to the caucus-shuttle diplomacy-traditional settlement conference approach?" He responds:
Paradoxically, lawyers, who want to be in control of the settlement process, give up that control to a mediator who shuttles between caucus rooms. Lawyers also give up their clients’ control, as well as the ability to speak, and listen, to the other side. Because they’ve given up control to the mediator, the only way they can influence the process is through strategic maneuvering and applying pressure to the other side. Clients are adults, but the caucus method doesn’t treat them as adults. The downside is that clients feel pushed to settle, many times they regret the process or the result, they hold the lawyers or the legal system responsible, and they feel as if they have received second class justice.
As you may guess from reading that response, Friedman and Jack Himmelstein (his coauthor) have some provocative ideas about what is happening in the world of mediation today. I once again urge you to read their book and to read the rest of the Hudgins interview at Q & A with Master Mediator Gary Friedman. In addition to the questions above, she asks:
- Why do you believe the Understanding Method of conflict resolution is superior to the caucus-shuttle diplomacy-traditional settlement conference approach?
- Why do some lawyers seem hesitant to embrace the Understanding Method?