Boganmeldelse Bragt i Business Communication Quarterly
Reviewed by Jo O’Rourke
HANS BOSERUP’s Mediation Six Ways in Seven Days has something for everyone who is interested in the area of mediation or conflict resolution. Although designed for the trainee mediator it will also be of interest to BCQ readers who wish to understand more about conflict and the various approaches to addressing it. It may also be of interest to mediation or business communication trainers who want a comprehensive approach to this area. A very useful aspect of the approach is the accompanying website which contains small video demonstrations of what is depicted in the book.
This textbook is designed as a seven day training course in mediation skills. It systematically guides the reader through the styles, one day at a time. On each of the seven training days, there are a large number of exercises and role-plays, which the author believes are paramount to the training process.
The format and language are easy to follow and absorb. The author highlights the competencies that mediators need to have in order to guide disputing parties through the process of mediation. The enthusiasm of the author and his knowledge of the subject make the book very readable. An experienced litigator and mediator, Hans Boserup clearly believes that mediation is the most efficient way to tackle disputes. He refers to the forty year history of the modern mediation process and contends that mediation has the greatest potential for agreement while consuming the least amount of resources.
The six basic styles of mediation are defined. These are Generic, Settlement driven, Cognitive-systemic, Transformative, Humanistic and Narrative. This introduction to the different approaches, all rooted in a sound theoretical base, give credibility and confidence to mediation as a growing discipline.
In exploring these various styles Boserup stresses the importance of knowing what the parameters are within each style. Each one has its own approach and he suggests that there is a formula for each in order to achieve a desired outcome.
He describes the expectations one can have from these different approaches and how important it is that the skilled mediator knows them well. Although mediation is all about getting information out in the open there is no one way to do this. People are all different and come to the table with a range of emotions and feelings. For many people the process is as important, if not more so, than the outcome.
A skilled mediator will watch, listen and respond to the parties as appropriate. If, for example, the parties are not willing or able to reveal emotions the mediator will adopt a different style. The process may begin with a generic or transformative style but with this new awareness of the parties the mediator will shift to a cognitive style.
Boserup cautions questioning parties too much. Questions are necessary but it is how they are phrased that is important.
He explains the difference between linear and circular questioning clearly. The supporting diagram in that section leaves the novice mediator in no doubt that open-ended, circular questioning is what works. When exploring with the parties in this way it becomes how anything and everything is connected. The various role plays in the book and the video cuts demonstrate the effectiveness of this style of questioning. He also illustrates how clever use of questions improves empowerment and recognition amongst the parties.
There is often confusion among trainee mediators whether to allow all or some of the story to unfold at the beginning of the process. Reading through the book the best approach becomes clearer. He details how it is easier to narrow than to widen, so to let the parties elaborate as much as possible.
At the beginning he reminds the
reader that empathy, respect and appreciation cannot be enforced; these have to be drawn out of the parties, skilfully and gently. He guides the trainee how to do this.
The exercises at the end of each chapter are excellent in reinforcing the information introduced. For example one is questioned as to how to move smoothly from active listening of one party to the other in a seamless way. Or what is the difference between moderating and reframing. The author speaks to the reader as a good tutor, contextualising new concepts when they are introduced.
When discussing conflict between the parties, the reader is challenged to consider one’s own experience of conflict and how or whether these have been resolved or not. One then has a sense of the empowering or disempowering effect of each. A more detailed exploration of dealing with personal conflict is dealt with in Kenneth Cloke’s book Mediating Dangerously (Jossey-Bass 2001).
Boserup points to the importance of personal preparation for the mediation process. He talks about the influence of Buddhism on mediation and refers to work done by Leonard Risken in Decision Making in Mediation The New Old Grid and the New New Grid System, 79 Notre Dame Law Review 1 (2003).
There is emerging evidence to show the similarities of meditation and mediation. Both are instruments of peacemaking. The former deals with internal conflict and the latter deals with interpersonal conflict. Many of the skills required for success in meditation are the same as those required for success in mediation.
In conclusion, Mediation Six Ways in Seven Days delivers a good training programme. According to the author 95% of mediation agreements are either fulfilled or in progress five years after mediation, from his research of American studies. The book is therefore positive about the process and outcome possibilities for mediation.
This textbook will serve as a useful guide to the competencies required for the trainee mediator and a valuable reference for BCQ readers interested in human dynamics. The author guides the reader towards developing skills which create a more competent and seamless process towards encourage disputing parties to re-build relationships.
Jo O’Rourke HSE 3rd Floor Par House North Circular Road Dublin 7
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