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Cooperation v Competition in Conflict (2)

Cooperation v Competition in Conflict (2)

Why do you think mediators need to view their role as helping the parties both cooperate AND compete?



Full Transcript

This is one that’s particularly about conflict intervention. It can apply to all of us in conflict whether were intervenors or not, but that’s particularly an important one for intervenors. Whereas most of the other paradoxes apply to all of us in conflict, as well as intervenors.


That gets back to our last interview a little bit, about neutrality too. I think that we think that a critical defining factor of who we are, as third parties, is our neutrality. Yet, in no sense, except aspirational, are we really neutral, and that term itself is very confusing to people.


What people want from us when we intervene in conflict is they want to be helped. And they want to know that we care about them, and they want to know that we care about them achieving their goals, their legitimate goals, you could say, I suppose, but their goals. And they want us to have some objectivity, some perspective, some dispassion. That’s true whether we are advocates or mediators, whether we are in a third-party role or in an ally role.


In fact, unless we are able to convey both elements, that we are able to take a dispassionate view, to not get completely bought into the conflict, to look at the broader picture, to understand and help people understand not only where they’re coming from but enough of where, what they see as adversaries, are coming from, so that they can craft a more effective approach.


At the same time, that we genuinely care about their circumstance, not just in some abstract, objective way, but on an emotional level as well. Then we’re not going to be completely accepted into their lives if we can’t do that, and we won’t be very effective.


There are particular aspects to this as to what our particular role is, whether we’re third parties or advocates, for example, but it’s true for all conflict intervention roles.

About the mediator

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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