John M. Livingood has been mediating a wide variety of disputes for more than seventeen years. He has extensive training and experience in various styles of mediation. He is a Mediator for the National Mediation Board. In addition, he has mediated for the U.S. Postal Service and the EEOC. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and should not be attributed to any other person or public or private entity.
I. Introduction In its broadest sense, “reframing”—a term of art in dispute resolution circles—is a realignment of “a frame of reference.” In negotiations and conflict resolution, it is a powerful tool that has many uses. In this chapter, the discussion of reframing is limited to the technique of restating or rephrasing statements and concepts in order to advance the goal of reaching an agreement and resolving conflicts and disputes. (This is not meant to discount the value of other forms of reframing, including the reframing of actions or behaviors.) Reframing can be used negatively to frustrate and impede settlements and the resolution of conflicts, but that will not be considered here. All the participants in a mediation may engage in reframing. An advocate may reframe statements to further negotiations or channel them in a particular direction for the purpose of achieving the client’s goals. A conflict resolution practitioner may, for example, reframe a statement by a party to the mediation in order to elicit agreement on some issues, or to bring out the underlying interests of the parties. The practitioner also may encourage the parties to reframe their own statements.