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Negotiation Styles in Mediation

In mediating conflicts, it helps to understand the five styles of dispute resolution most often used by negotiators. Often, the various styles need a mediator to buffer the interactions and turn a toxic negotiating atmosphere into a successful mediation.

A. The five methods of negotiation are:

1. Attack or fight. This type of negotiator is often called an aggressive negotiator.

2. Appease or attempt to convert. This type of negotiator is often called a cooperative negotiator.

3. Flee or attempt to evade the problem. This kind of negotiator is often called a distractor.

4. Displace or analyze the problem. When a man is told not to come in to the office today because it has burned down and responds by analyzing the changes in traffic patterns the fire trucks will have made, he is engaging in displacement. This kind of negotiator is often called an analyst.

5. Truth seeking. This kind of negotiator is often called an idealist.

B. Understanding And Dealing With Each Style

1. Negotiators who tend to fight share the following characteristics:


They seek to win. The goal is victory, defined as maximizing the client's outcome and outmaneuvering or beating opposing counsel.


They make threats, insult, withhold information, "stretch" the facts, and demand one-sided gains.

2. Negotiators who tend to appease share the following characteristics:


They seek to act fairly. The goal is agreement, defined as reaching a "fair" result for their client, with a high value placed on the relationship between the attorneys and the clients.


They are courteous, realistic in positions, and openly share information. They also often make one-sided concessions with the expectation that the opponent is morally obligated to reciprocate.

3. Negotiators who tend to flee or dither share the following characteristics:


They seek to win but are uncertain what that means. The goal is survival, defined as not losing or being beaten.


They dither between three patterns: attack, appeasement and hiding/delaying/stalling. Many, many attorneys who are thought of as "attack" or "appeasement" negotiators are actually dithering attorneys whose strategy of dithering emphasizes either attacking or appeasement (but includes the other two patterns).

They are often noncommittal, with the desire of avoiding loss or harm. In an attack orientation the bottom line is "what can I conquer or take?" In appeasement, it is "what can we work out or create?" In dithering: "what can I avoid losing?"

4. Negotiators who tend to analyze share the following characteristics:


They seek to understand. The goal is solving the problem (often independent of the parties benefit) and increased understanding.


They are thoughtful and act independent of trust. Where an appeaser can not work with you if he or she does not trust you, and a ditherer will not trust you (even as he or she works with you), an analytical attorney does not see trust as an important issue. They tend to rely on objective criteria and to seek multiple options -- even where there is only one solution.

5. Negotiators who tend to level or seek the truth share the following characteristics:


They seek abstract truth or justice often without regard to human factors or reality. They often have a single "truth" (e.g. global warming or global cooling) that dominates them in spite of rational considerations (pro or con. They may well be right in their "truth" but reason isn't why they hold to it).


Honest, sincere, dedicated. Often intense, inflexible and idealistic.

C. Applying Mediation to the Process.

One reason that mediation works very well in improving the negotiation process is because it helps defuse the natural conflicts created by differences in negotiation styles.

Mediation is generally set up in a structure that isolates parties from style conflicts. The parties take fixed positions prior to the mediation meeting. The parties present their sides of the conflict with minimal interruption. The parties then retire to caucuses (separate areas) and the mediator shuttles back and forth with offers, positions, questions and information reworded in more neutral terms by the mediator.

The most common contemporary mediation process tends to take the style out of the process and reduces the matter to positional shifts and objective statements. It should be remembered that mediation made substantial improvements in its success rates when this basic format became the standard or common format for mediating disputes.

One of the reasons for the improved success rate of mediation when using the modern format is that negotiations that were floundering because of style conflicts in the old format had the element of style conflicts taken out or reduced by the new format.

As a mediator, by being aware of the various styles, you can seek to use the process to improve the interactions and the results. When negotiations hit a bottleneck or a seemingly impossible conflict of personality, by being aware of these issues you can aid mediation work to resolve the matter by removing the issue of style conflicts.

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