The Understanding-Based Approach to Mediation

One of the keys to the power of the Understanding-based model of mediation is that it is a real alternative. Parties have a variety of choices to resolve their dispute, in particular, proceeding through the adversary system either by having their lawyers negotiate for them or, ultimately, having a judge decide the matter. The Understanding-based approach poses a very different possibility and opportunity, one that we believe deeply respects and honors parties and leads to better solutions.

Understanding-based mediation offers people in conflict a way to work together to make decisions that resolve their dispute. This non-traditional approach to conflict is based on a simple premise: The people ultimately in the best position to determine the wisest solution to a dispute are those who created and are living the problem. They may well need support, and we seek to provide them support in helping them find a productive and constructive way to work together, to understand their conflict and the possibilities for resolving it, and to reach resolution.

This book is about deepening and expanding that understanding, and working together to create enduring solutions to conflict. To pursue this path, we work from a base of four interrelated core principles.

  • First, we rely heavily on the power of understanding rather than the power of coercion or persuasion to drive the process.
  • Second, the primary responsibility for whether and how the dispute is resolved needs to be with the parties.
  • Third, the parties are best served by working together and making decisions together.
  • Fourth, conflicts are best resolved by uncovering what lies under the level at which the parties experience the problem.

These core ideas are radically different from the traditional way in which most people think about dealing with conflict. They call and build upon the motivations of both mediator and parties to work in an alternative way, and we have found that for many that motivation is there once they see the possibility. These ideas in action challenge conflict