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Helping parties to communicate

Good communication may help to uncover interests, deal with emotions, find solutions and make parties feel heard and understood.

What challenges does it focus on?

Achieve good communication between parties.

Short summary

Facilitators use several interventions that help structuring the communication and make parties feel understood:

  • Summarize what the parties say; i.e. ‘Do I understand it correctly that you propose …’).
  • Rephrasing what the parties say in a positive way; i.e. ‘So, what you would like to do is….’ or ‘this means that you expect to….’.
  • Expand on the information parties give: Does this also include...?
  • Order ideas into seqeunces (historical, importance and so on)
  • Break topics down into small issues. This can make them more manageable. For instance, when one party says the other person always behaves like a bad neighbor, ask what he exactly means by it. It could be about making too much noise, encroachment, never helping him out. When the issue gets more concrete, it becomes possible to find out how things can be changed.
  • Use the personal pronoun “we” when possible to unite the interests of the parties.
  • Ask many questions
  • Rephrase responses into positive interests and check that they are correct. For example if a party says “And then he started calling me names”, you can say “He started calling you names, and you want to be treated respectfully?”
  • Exercise active listening

Research evidence

Evidence from literature

List of communication techniques can be found in:

Bonenkamp, H.J., Brenninkmeijer, A.F.M. (2001). Handboek mediation, 2001, SDU Den Haag:Netherlands
Moore, C. (2003). The Mediation Process: Practical Strategies for Resolving Conflict, 3th ed., Jossey-Bass San Francisco:California Boulle, L. J., Colatrella, M.T., Jr., & Picchioni, A.P. (2008). Mediation: Skills and techniques. New York, United States: LexisNexis

Best practices