Mediation as Framing and Framing Within Mediation

Barbara Gray

Pennsylvania State University – Center for Research in Conflict and Negotiation (CRCN)

June 15, 2005

IACM 18th Annual Conference


In this paper I explore two connections between mediation and framing. First, mediators use framing as a technique to foster resolution by creating different social accounts of the conflict. I review several framing tasks include framing: the process and disputants’ expectations, fairness and justice, the issues in contention, alternatives, and identity concerns. Thus, I pay particular attention to the mechanisms by which framing can transform disputes and disputants. Second, I explore how mediation itself is a frame within the larger constellation of frames disputants and third parties might evoke to view conflicts. Within this constellation of frames, mediation is positioned as one of several possible conflict handling frames that disputants could, but often don’t, adopt. I explore several reasons why disputants’ framing of the conflict makes them leery of mediation. Finally, I consider several alternatives that third parties can use to help maintain a civil dialogue among disputants when mediation is not an accepted option. These interventions focus on narration, perspective-taking, and acknowledgment of critical identities, and are intended to honor disputants’ existing frames while at the same time promoting possible frame enlargement so that disputants can begin to understand each other better.

Mediation as Framing and Framing Within Mediation

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