A Theory of Mediation - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 56, No. 2
The author, a full-time mediator in California, has been on the panel of the American Arbitration Association since 1981. He is a judge pro temp of the Fresno County Superior Court, and an early neutral evaluator for the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California. He is also an adjunct professor of law at San Joaquin College of Law and an adjunct professor of forensic psychology at Alliant University/California School of Professional Psychology. He can be reached through his Web site (www.manageconflict.com) or via e-mail: email@example.com.
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
There is no lack of debate in the field of mediation. Topics that tend to attract the most attention and vigorous discussion include mediator qualification and process outcome. What’s lacking, according to Douglas Noll, is a practical theory that would bring together different views, and help both practitioners and clients. In the following article, Noll reviews existing literature to form a simple mediation theory founded on basic conflict dynamics. Noll’s theory provides a framework for explaining various mediation styles and outcomes—when a certain approach is appropriate and why.
To date, the debates in the mediation field have centered on which process is better, who is qualified to be a mediator, and on outcome measurement. In reading the vast literature generated by these debates, no clear theory of practice has apparently developed. I believe that a general theory has not developed because the debates on process and outcome have not considered conflict dynamics.
I propose that when conflict dynamics are considered, a simple theory of mediation arises. This theory appears to reconcile and justify all of the diverging views of practice and outcome into a unified view of mediation.
This theory of mediation contains four strands: conflict goals, level of conflict escalation, mediation style or process, and outcome. I will explain each strand then state a theory of mediation encompassing them all.