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Reasons for Mediation Impasse

Reasons for Mediation Impasse

What are the common causes of impasse in mediation?



Full Transcript

Often it is the result of the mediator pushing too hard. I think when we fight against people’s resistance to settle that can be the key thing that leads you into a cul de sac. Leads you into a place where neither you nor the clients are quite sure what to do next. So just to rewind a little bit. I think partly what happens in the process is that when people come along to something like mediation it might be also similar processes but there are two opposing forces. Two opposing, what’s the word? Intentions. There is an intention to settle this ‘…because this dispute is a pain in the neck and it’s taking up my time and my energy and I want to get it sorted.’


Then on the other hand, I have this opposing inclination which is, ‘…this person B person is not going to get one over on me. I’m blowed if I’m going to settle anything with him or her. I’m not going to give an inch. I’m not going to give a pound. I’m not going to give a concession. I’m not going to agree to a single thing that he or she wants me to do.’ So you have these two opposing forces. Now if the mediator pushes against the resistance, what tends to happen is the resistance is raised.


So the more you push against my brick wall, the taller I’m going to build my brick wall because you ain’t going to push against that brick wall of mine. It’s there for a reason and if you don’t honour it and you don’t respect the fact that I have this resistance I’m just going to build it higher and higher. Generally speaking mediators can get stuck when you can’t see over the wall anymore.


It’s where you’re saying, ‘Look, this would be much better for you to settle this wouldn’t it? You do want to walk away from here with a settlement don’t you? If I were you…’ and if you even slip out of the facilitative role and get into an evaluative role of saying ‘You know what. If I were you I think £6,000 pounds should put this to bed. You know I think what you need to do is…’. I think what you’re doing is you’re pushing against and you’re not sufficiently honouring, their disinclination to settle.


What you need to do is to say, ‘Okay, I get it. You want to give this guy a black eye. What you want to do is not to give any concession. What you want to do is to make a point here and say they shouldn’t have done this thing to you. This business shouldn’t have mis-supplied those goods. They should have honoured the contract that they signed. They should have kept an eye on the quality on the service they provided for you, and you want to prove your point. You want them to know you’ve been very inconvenienced, hurt, disadvantaged, held back by their actions.’


Clients: ‘Yeah, That’s right.’


‘How can we actually get that over to them in a way that still leaves a possibility open for you to get a settlement today? How can you make your point and how can you make sure that they understand your reality here that you are really peed off with them? Yet at the same time, don’t close that door with the possibility of getting a settlement.’ And that’s the question.


It’s a hard question but that’s the question that you’re trying to answer. ‘How can we still achieve your agenda of letting them know you are furious with them and at the same time walk away with a settlement?’

About the mediator

Mike Talbot Profile Pic

Mike began his career researching the use of new technology in the workplace. At British Telecom’s research labs he worked on using voice control to work computers, and co-authored a book on the subject. He became interested in the use of computer speech technology for people with disabilities, especially looking at using technology to help speech-impaired people to communicate better. Communication then became something of a theme for Mike, wh... View Mediator