Mediators can use various mediation models to aid parties in conflict achieve a positive outcome. The Transformative Model is one of the more useful approaches in that it does not try to override the interests of the parties in dispute. At the heart of most disputes is the basic truth that the parties have differing goals and objectives; their interests are incompatible and thus are the core of the conflict.
The transformative model respects the individual differences held by the parties, but allows the parties to take control of the process and change the dynamic from negative or destruction actions and language to actions or language that is constructive. The interest-based discussions are taken over by the parties in dispute and they are then empowered to examine other ways and means of resolving the dispute, and to finally crafting a solution or set of solutions.
In this model the mediator’s role is to support the parties as they shift from a defensive posture to a relationship approach where the parties recognize they have the power to affect the outcome where the process itself is positive and the potential outcome is positive. Once the mediator initiates the mediation process on the basis of the transformative model, he/she must exercise patience and restraint because the process within the transformative model where the parties take control of the interaction is neither smooth nor seamless. In this new and tentative relationship, the interaction of the parties will advance toward potential alternatives and retreat back to defending their previous point of view. Yet, because of the environment nurtured by the mediator, the parties advance more frequently than they retreat.
The mediator cannot lose sight of the goal which is to get the parties to take ownership of both the process and the outcome, and to do so in a positive way that brings resolution to the dispute. In the modern business lexicon the word Empowerment is over used and often misused, but in the context of this type of mediation it is accurate description of what must take place in order for the parties to successfully construct a lasting resolution to their conflict.
Whenever I am tempted to steer the parties toward a more constructive dialogue I remind myself of what a man by the name of Andy Hickman wrote in his book, Stuff That Really Matters, about what he called the Bonzai Principle. In this story Mr. Hickman reminds his readers that the Bonzai tree, beautiful as it may be, was not designed to be six inches tall. It stays that way through the actions of individuals. So whenever I start thinking I know best, I remind myself that I may be doing the opposite of what is best.