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Demand for Mediation

Demand for Mediation

Why is there slow demand for mediation?



Full Transcript

I think there are several reasons. One is that we offer a service that is geared towards a fairly narrow range of conflicts. In some cases, conflicts are serious enough to need outside help, in others they are not and the people are absolutely bound and determined to want to go to war about it. The latter is a fairly narrow range of conflicts. We try to expand it, and we’ve had some success in expanding people’s thinking about it both preventatively and where people are engaged in much more serious conflicts, but it’s still a fairly narrow range. One of the things that I have asked people often including mediators is, ‘If you’re merely embroiled in a big conflict, who do you go to first’?


You are like everybody else. Who do we go to first? Somebody who’s going to validate us and say we’re right. Secondly, we might then go to somebody who’ll give us some empowerment and some advocacy assistance. Or we might go to some expert, somebody who has expert information about the situation.


Way down the list we may think of a third party or that may never happen. If you ask this and get honest answers from mediators, you’ll get that exact same response about their own conflicts. It says that we created a field. We created a way of thinking that addresses a very narrow part of what people experience or need to be in conflict. We can better do that.

It doesn’t speak to what people experience their needs. In ‘Beyond Neutrality’ I talked about the six things people need in conflict and it’s something it takes a certain amount of hubris to do because I’m talking about all conflicts, but still I think it makes a point.


I talk about: people’s need for voice, for validation, for vindication, for procedural justice, for impact and people’s need for safe. I think mediation, in a way, addresses some of those but not only people to really grasp. Whereas, if you compare what our answer to those needs are to,  say an advocate’s is or an attorney’s is, the results would be very different. I think that’s part of the problem here. You know the saying: ‘If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail’?


Well, I once was on a panel that said, ‘If mediation is our position what is our interest?’ I’ve always thought that I didn’t come up with that name. My friend Bill Botopshick [sounds like 00:12:25] but it was a very clever point because we’re saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got this service. We’re offering it to you. It’s third party neutral intervention. It may be mediation, it may be facilitation, it may even be arbitration. But that’s what we’re offering. That’s a very narrow range.


In fact, what people need in conflict is far broader than that, and we have skills we can be applied in far broader ways.

About the mediator

Bernie Mayer Profile Pic

Bernie Mayer, Ph.D. is Professor of Dispute Resolution at The Werner Institute, Creighton University. He is without doubt a leader in the field of conflict resolution. Considered by many in the field of conflict resolution as an icon, Bernie has over a quarter century of experience in the field and was a founding partner at CDR Associates, the internationally recognized mediation and conflict resolution organization. Bernie originally trained as ... View Mediator