Do Mediators Walk Their Talk in Civil Cases?
31 Pages Posted: 24 May 2010
Opening joint sessions in civil case mediations, while understudied, are a key element in the mediation process. Here mediators set the tone of the mediation by delineating the goals of mediation, proffering advice to the disputants, and indicating which strategy they will subsequently use. We investigate mediators’ behaviors in these opening sessions – specifically, whether mediators walked their talk (i.e. employed the strategies they said they would) – and the mediation outcomes of these behaviors. We observed 100 civil case mediations and found that mediators in the opening joint sessions typically did provide goals of the mediation, advice to the disputants, and descriptions of their intended strategies. In about one-half of the mediations, the mediators stated which style – neutral, evaluative or pressing – they would utilize. Observations of the subsequent mediations revealed that mediators who said they would employ a neutral style seldom did so, whereas the mediators who said they would evaluate or press were more apt to follow their espoused strategy. Our data revealed that the evaluative strategy was most often associated with agreement, the pressing style was a close second and the neutral style was a distant third. Furthermore, we found that the evaluative and pressing mediators who walked their talk were most effective in obtaining agreements, whereas mediators who initially stated they would use an evaluative strategy but subsequently pressed the disputants achieved the least agreements. Implications of our findings are discussed.
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