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The Basic Components of Mediation

Most models present functional steps that emphasize what the mediator should accom­ plish during a particular portion or phase of the mediation, with an acknowledgment that the phases are not written in stone. A few models, particularly those intended for use by children or mediators with relatively little training, are extremely prescriptive in the pre­ sentation of chronological steps-even to the point of a manuscript of what the mediator should say at particular times during the session.

Approaching the mediation process as functional rather than as strict steps allows the mediator leeway in addressing concerns as they arise. For example, it is not unusual dur­ ing the problem-solving phase for parties to blame each other for the situation. When recrimination occurs during negotiation, the mediator uses emotional paraphrasing or other skills to moderate the strong feelings-even though these skills are more common to an earlier phase where storytelling occurs. In Eli’s case, Miss Davies was quiet during the early phases of the process, but as the agreement began to take shape, she wanted to tell Jodi about her love for Eli. Recognizing that the teacher’s story was important to the relationship between parent and teacher, the mediator interrupted the agreement-writing process to encourage her reflections.

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Focus on the Problem, the Emotions, or Balance Problems and Emotions

Models differ on what the mediator is expected to do. Some focus exclusively on substan­ tive issues, such as “How much is the car worth?” or “What is the amount of the cleaning deposit to be returned, if any?” Transformative models focus mostly on psychological or emotional causes of conflict, such as “How did you feel when Reymundo’s first words as a supervisor were criticism of you?” or “What concerns you as a parent about Eli riding the bus?”

In Case 2.1, because Reymundo and Noah had a friendship and have an ongoing work relationship, both emotions and substantive issues arise in their case. If the mediator focuses only on the substantive issue of the project, a large portion of the underlying prob­ lem would continue to fester. If the mediator focused only on the friendship, opportunities to improve workplace efforts might be missed. Likewise, because Eli will be a student at the Ridgeman School District for several years, building trust between parent and school is wiser than just focusing on the substantive legal facts.

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