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Food for Thought - The Hostile Mediator

Posted By Jeri K. Somers, Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I recently ran across an unexpected perspective on mediation. Generally, experienced mediators adopt a style of mediation that encourages the parties to openly discuss concerns, which can lead to resolving conflict. Typically, the mediator works to defuse negative emotions between the adverse parties by encouraging open communication and discussion, while discouraging parties from focusing on previous negative interactions that have lead them to the point of impasse.

An interesting study challenges the theory that mediators must be “kind facilitators.” The study, entitled “The Surprising Effectiveness of Hostile Mediators,” suggests that hostile mediators can successfully resolve a mediation for various reasons. It concludes that the previous adversaries may “feel more connected and become more willing to reach agreement” when facing a hostile mediator. As an example, on page two of the study, the authors describe the mediation technique of the former Finnish President Martti Ahtisarri (described as a world-renowned conflict mediator of international crises). The study notes that “Ahtisarri’s strategy demonstrates that stern treatment of both parties can have an unusual effect: adversaries who moments before were in conflict may find themselves more united against a hostile mediator – and might even end up finding room for agreement.” The study is discussed in a Scientific American article, "How Tough-Guy Mediators Can Turn 'Them' into 'Us.'”

So let’s share ideas on this – post your comments!

Tags:  hostile mediators  Martti Ahtisarri  mediation  The Surprising Effectiveness of Hostile Mediators 

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Donita M. King says...
Posted Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Interesting; but risky, as are many generalizations. A mediator must first "know" their parties, including cultural backgrounds; and adjust their manner accordingly. There is no one style or manner for every mediation or situation. However it is good to raise the point that to be effective, a mediator might have to adjust their style to something sterner than usual, to be effective,
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