The Impact of Humor on Mediation - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 61, No. 3
The author is a lecturer at the College of Business Administration at the University of Texas Pan American and teaches various management courses. He expects to complete his doctorate in December 2006. Mr. Cruthirds has previously written on the subject of humor and labor turnover. The author thanks Charles Cruthirds for his help with editing and proofreading this article.
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
Mediators work in an intense environment with parties who are often quite hostile to each other. Research shows that humor is a social lubricant that can facilitate communication, establish leadership, and promote group cohesion. This article proposes that humor is a tool that mediators can use in appropriate mediation situations to diminish negative feelings, facilitate negotiations, and even achieve resolutions in a shorter period of time, eliminating the need for arbitration and reducing the strain on the parties’ resources. It also advocates including humor in mediation training curricula.
Mediation has become a commonly accepted form of alternative dispute resolution. It involves the use of a neutral third-party mediator to help the parties to a dispute reach a mutually satisfactory resolution.1 The institutionalization of mediation in the private sector began with the passage of the Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947.2 During its infancy, what made a good mediator was unknown to academia and the general public. Julius Manson described a mediator’s professional equipment as consisting of “subtle, formless personal elements whose identification has baffled social scientists” and went on to identify 25 desirable qualities in a mediator, which he allocated to five categories: character, intellectual, emotional, social, and technical (see Table 1).3