Reluctant Disputants and the Third Party

Silke Hansen

Senior Conciliation Specialist, Community Relations Service

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Q: When you come into a situation, how do you assess the appropriateness of your techniques and models to that situation? Is mediation your primary tool? Do you have other tools?

A: I have other tools. But in some ways, and this is sort of a personal thing, I think when I first approach a conflict, I try to determine whether I can get the situation into mediation. That is sort of my own framework that I work towards. I might find out that one of the parties is really reluctant or there might be some other needs.

For instance, if one of the parties will accept training in one of the areas that is creating the tension, then I will go a long way towards easing the tension in resolving the conflict. So that's what I'll do. It is interesting how many parties still see agreeing to mediation as a failure on their part. It's as if they request mediation, they are acknowledging that they couldn't handle the situation themselves. I'm not really sure what they're afraid of. I've noticed that there is a great reluctance on the part of parties, sometimes, especially "establishment" parties, if you will. But if they agreed to mediation, it seems like a huge legal step, when in fact, the whole idea of mediation is less legal and in some ways a less formal response to conflict, but it is difficult sometimes to sell that.