Tools of Negotiation, Mediation, and Dialogue

by Joseph de Rivera

conflict2

Negotiation is the tool most often associated with peace. It is inherent in trade, and trade is widely regarded as an alternative to war. Yet few realize the advances that have been made in the design of negotiation tools and the wide range of situations in which these tools may be applied. The essence of negotiation is to turn conflict or a potential conflict into an opportunity for mutual gain and new forms of negotiation have been developed to settle conflicts in creative ways that avoid violence and meet the interests of both parties. The following are seven associated tools of negotiation, mediation, and dialogue:

1. Principled Negotiation
This is a rational approach that attempts to create a solution that meets the interests of both parties. It1 may be contrasted with the usual bargaining over positions. In typical positional bargaining, the parties to a negotiation focus on their respective positions and attempt to affect some sort of compromise between these positions. See here for more information on negotiation.

2. Mediation and Arbitration
When the parties to a conflict are deadlocked in a dispute, they often may be helped by a third party. Third parties may be helpful in a number of different ways. They may encourage and facilitate negotiation, teach negotiation techniques, mediate the dispute by suggesting solutions or, as is the case with arbitration, be empowered to impose a solution to which the others must agree. See here for more information on mediation and arbitration.

3. Procedures for Restorative Justice
An alternative procedure to negotiation is to have the state ask the victim if he or she would like to meet the offender and see what the offender could do to restore the human relationship between them. Studies of trial programs of such “restorative justice” have found that about 50% of victims want to meet the person who wronged them, that it is usually possible to negotiate a way to restore the human relationship, that the fearfulness of victims is greatly reduced and that there is less recidivism. Justice has been attained nonviolently, by restoration rather than retribution. See here for more information on restorative justice.

4. Problem Solving Workshops
Some conflicts involve past wounds and a lack of trust that is so deep that the parties that need to negotiate cannot reveal underlying needs or care about meeting the interests of others. In order to deal with the pain, shame, and hatred of past injuries, and to enable the trust necessary for principled negotiation to occur, negotiators have developed what have become known as “problem-solving” workshops in which people may share underlying pains, fears, and needs. See here for more information on problem solving workshops.

5. Transformative Negotiation
Transformative negotiation focuses on the negotiating process as a way of sharing underlying needs as well as interests. Such negotiations require developing deeper levels of trust and, when successful, involve a transformation of relationships and identity so that definitions that reflect enmity or involve devaluations of the other are no longer aspects of one’s identity. See here for more information on transformative negotiation.

6. Value Conflicts and Methods of Dialogue
Conflicts may involve the priority of different values. Dialogues usually begin with an attempt to decrease the threat posed by the difference in values. One method, which can be used by individuals who wish to begin a dialogue, is the reverse of the typical debate. It begins with a person attempting to state the others point of view, persisting until the other agrees that there point of view has been correctly presented. See here for more information.

7. Public Conversations and Study Circles
It is frequently possible to have facilitators help groups of people with divergent values to conduct a dialogue. Deliberate dialogue refers to a carefully planned facilitated encounter between groups with different perspectives and interests. In the procedure used by Study Circles, before a group begins discussing an issue, each participant is asked to share his or her personal experiences with the issue. See here for more information on public conversations and study circles.

Tools for Peace:
Tools for Personal Transformation
Tools of Negotiation, Mediation, and Dialogue
Tools for Nonviolent Struggle
Tools for Strength: Power and Peaceful Governance
Power-within and Community
Power-to
Human Rights and the Transition from Power-over to Power-to
Tools for Civil Political Discourse