Facilitating Conflict Transformation: Mediator Strategies for Eliciting Emotional Communication in a Workplace Conflict

Authors


Jessica Katz Jameson is an associate professor in the department of communication at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Her e-mail address is jameson@ncsu.edu.

Andrea M. Bodtker is a mediation trainer and consultant in Philadelphia. Her e-mail address is abodphilly@yahoo.com.

Tim Linker is a negotiator for the Office of Research and Graduate Studies at North Carolina State University. His e-mail address is tim_linker@ncsu.edu.

Abstract

Although the recent literature on negotiation and mediation indicates the important role of emotion in the conflict process, few guidelines have been developed to assist new mediators in addressing parties' emotions during the mediation session. This study starts with the premise that attention to parties' underlying emotional experience is pivotal to achieving conflict transformation. We further suggest that mediators are in a unique position to help parties better understand both their own and each others' emotions and how they affect the unfolding conflict interaction. In the study, we analyzed the transcripts from eight simulated mediations of a common workplace conflict in an effort to identify the types of strategies mediators use to elicit emotional communication. Participants include undergraduate students role playing parties in a conflict mediated by experienced mediators. We identified five types of emotion-eliciting strategies: grant legitimacy, encourage emotion identification, confront avoidance of emotion, paraphrase emotion, and encourage emotional perspective taking. In this article, we provide examples of each strategy, discuss its potential implications, and consider the implications for theory and practice.

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