The Psychology Of Mediation

By:

David A. Hoffman
Richard N. Wolman

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview and summary of a broad range of psychological phenomena and examine their application to mediation. Our goal is to provide mediators— as well as the lawyers and disputants who use mediation—with a guide to navigating the powerful psychological and emotional currents that flow through the mediation process.

Mediation involves helping individuals, businesses, and other entities resolve conflict when they have differing needs, perspectives, belief systems, and personality styles.1 Even when it is used in conflicts involving corporations, educational institutions, or large family trusts, mediation involves individuals—the people responsible for making the decisions for those organizations. Questions and decisions in mediation are as much about people as they are about problems. Decisions about how much money a spouse should receive in alimony, whether a boss should pay a settlement to an employee about to be fired due to disagreement over company policy, or how to divide a business’ assets and liabilities among its three partners after they have had a falling out are as much about the people involved as any of the objective problems. Conversations during mediation often focus on dollar amounts or settlement terms and, therefore, appear reasoned and objective. But successful mediation requires knowledge about psychodynamics

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