Business vs. the Environment:
Managing the Balance
Negotiation Styles in Mediation
The following text is excerpted from a web page developed by
Stephen Marsh, Attorney at Law, Witchita
Falls, TX. Related links are provided at the bottom of this page.
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.
Five Methods of Negotiation
Attack or fight. This type of negotiator is often called an aggressive
Appease or attempt to convert. This type of negotiator is often called a
Flee or attempt to evade the problem. This kind of negotiator is often called
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.
Truth seeking. This kind of negotiator is often called an idealist.
Understanding And Dealing With Each Style
Negotiators who tend to fight share the following characteristics:
Goals: They seek to win. The goal is victory, defined as maximizing
the client's outcome and outmaneuvering or beating opposing counsel.
Traits: They make threats, insult, withhold information, "stretch"
the facts, and demand one-sided gains.
Negotiators who tend to appease share the following characteristics:
Goals: 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.
Traits: 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.
Negotiators who tend to flee or dither share the following
Goals: They seek to win but are uncertain what that means. The goal
is survival, defined as not losing or being beaten.
Traits: 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?"
Negotiators who tend to analyze share the following characteristics:
Goals: They seek to understand. The goal is solving the problem (often
independent of the parties benefit) and increased understanding.
Traits: 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.
Negotiators who tend to level or seek the truth share the following
Goals: 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).
Traits: Honest, sincere, dedicated. Often intense, inflexible and
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
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.