Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 1994, 263 pp.
Summary by Tanya Glaser
Copyright ©1997 by the Conflict Research Consortium
Communication and the limiting of misunderstandings; negotiation, mediation, facilitation, and consensus building; of general applicability to environmental problems; written for first and third party participants.
New Directions in Mediation is a collection of essays which analyze the mediation process from a communicative perspective. The collection includes both theoretical approaches, and discussions of practical application.
New Directions in Mediation will be of interest to those who seek to understand the effect of communicative acts and styles on mediation. This work is divided into twelve essays grouped into four parts, with an introduction and epilogue by the editors. In their introduction the editors discuss the rise of mediation in the United States, and describe the communication perspective on conflict. They note that "central to the communicative perspective is the realization that conflict is a sociallycreated and communicatively managed reality occurring within a socio-historical context that both affects meaning and behavior and is affected by it."[ix]
The essays in Part I approach and describe the mediation process from a communicative perspective. Joseph Folger and Robert Baruch Bush uncover and examine the presence of ideological bias in mediators. They discuss the extent to which current emphasis on the problem-solving approach to conflict resolution may rest on ideological assumptions about social relationships and human development. Tricia Jones focuses on the presence of dialectical tensions between parties to conflict, arguing that these tensions are a critical context with regard to the mediation process. Sara Cobb analyses the mediation process as a form of narrative. Understanding mediation as a narrative process may help to clarify the mediator's role, and have implications for mediator training.
Part II focuses on the ways in which specific communicative acts shape the reality of parties and third-parties to conflict. Stephen Littlejohn, Jonathan Shailor and W. Barnett Pearce use the example of divorce mediation to articulate an interpretive model of mediation. An interpretive model "assumes that there are three critical parts of social reality - moral reality, conflict reality, and justice reality - that must be considered to understand how mediators may privilege certain realities and impact disputants' orientations and outcomes."[xiii] In contrast, David Greatbatchand Robert Dingwall examine how disputants' realities may affect the mediator's views. Also focusing on divorce mediation, Karen Tracy and Anna Spradlin analyze and contrast divorce mediators use of language and conversation styles. They evaluate different mediator styles, and conclude with suggestions for mediator practice.
In Part III the authors turn their attention toward social, institutional and cultural factors which influence the conflict and mediation processes. William Donohue and Mary Bresnahan address issues of cultural difference in intergroup conflicts. They explore how certain mediation models fit certain cultural assumptions. Tricia Jones and Heidi Brinkman discuss peer mediation programs for children. They describe the elements which contribute to the success of such programs, and making specific recommendations for individuals interested in establishing peer mediation programs. Rekha Karambayya and Jeanne Brett discuss "Managerial Third Parties," presenting a comprehensive model of the factors at play in mediation within anorganizational setting.
In Part IV mediation practitioners respond to the theories and claims made from the communicative approach. Carol Moore discusses the potential for mediators to act to restore and sustain a sense of community. Janet Rifkin observes that theoretical advances need to be translated into realistic designs for practical application, and points to the difficulties involved in such translation. Christopher Moore then attempts to apply the theoretical insights supplies in earlier essays to a case from his own experience as a mediator.
New Directions in Mediation introduces a communicative approach to understanding mediation, and illustrates a variety of positions from within that approach. These essays should be accessible to the informed lay reader.