The Power of Understanding

In the traditional approach to resolving conflict, the coin of the realm is the power of coercion. When parties disagree, the exertion of control through the use of threat, persuasion, manipulation, or the imposition of an external authority is considered inevitable, necessary, and proper. That is true not only in the traditional adversarial model of resolving disputes but also in many of the seemingly differing models of alternative dispute resolution that have evolved. While we do not pretend to be able to totally eliminate coercion in our approach, we try to bring the power of understanding to bear wherever possible as the gateway to resolution.

Understanding proves central along several dimensions of helping parties to deal with their conflict. One, of course, is the  substance of the conflict. We support each party in gaining as full  an understanding as possible of what is important to him or her  in the dispute, as well as what is important to the other party.  Understanding is also critical in creating a working relationship  between the parties and the mediator that makes sense to all.  And understanding can prove crucial in helping the parties to rec ognize the nature of the conflict in which they are enmeshed and  how they might free themselves from its grasp.

We want everything to be understood that may be important  to the parties in resolving their differences, from how we will  work together, to the true nature of the conflict in which the par ties are enmeshed, where it came from, how it grew, and how  they might free themselves from it. We believe the parties should  understand the legal implications of their case, but that the law  should not usurp or direct our mediation. We put as much weight  on the personal-, practical-, or business-related aspects of any  conflict as on the legal aspect. In finding a resolution, we want  all parties to recognize what is important to them in the dispute  and to understand what is important to the others. We strive for  a resolution to satisfy each.