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.