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How are negotiation and mediation related?

Good negotiators do not negotiate extemporaneously, but almost always work from a script or plan. Like moves a chess player makes, negotiators execute a series of actions designed to overcome differences between parties in dispute and thereby bring an end to the conflict. Each move or action in a negotiation is structured in a manner that encourages the parties to discuss, and to ultimately select alternative outcomes consistent with the needs and requirements of the parties.

Mediation is much like negotiation in the sense that mediators also initiate actions. The key difference is that in a mediation the actions are based on a series of questions and comments constructed in a way that encourage the disputing parties to select positive outcomes, which in turn allow the parties to step back from entrenched positions, and explore alternatives. In this environment the mediator is not the negotiator and does not drive the conversation in a particular direction or toward a particular goal. While he or she may be an experienced negotiator, and may used techniques common in negotiation, the mediator should only use those techniques sparingly as a means of facilitating and fostering dialogue between the disputing parties.

In a negotiation, the negotiator is an integral part of the problem solving process, and is key to how the actions and moves play out between the parties. It is a problem solving dynamic that attempts to dismantle/disarm previously intractable concerns, and compromises are reached in stages as each aspect of the dispute is broken down and resolved.

Where a mediation is clearly different is that here the parties in dispute negotiate with each other, and the mediator is not a direct participant in the negotiations. His or her role is to facilitate the negotiators in their efforts to resolve the dispute, and should only intervene in the process for specific reasons. Some of those reasons include establishing a pause to collect data/clarify information, so that the parties can assess where they are at and document any agreements reached, to gain entry at a point the parties are approaching impasse, assist in assessing options, promote dialogue over argument, and verify each parties understanding of remaining actions. It must be emphasized that it is the mediators responsibility to control the environment, that responsibility must be executed with a light touch.

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