Most mediators practicing in Ireland use the facilitative styles of mediation, though sometimes employing elements of the others.
Facilitative is the most structured and the most utilized style of mediation (Linden). The Facilitative mediator “asks questions; validates and normalizes parties’ points of view; searches for interests underneath the positions taken by parties; and assists the parties in finding and analyzing options for resolution” (Zumeta).
A mediator using this style is completely neutral. He or she does not give advice, recommendations or opinions (Etcheson 394). Zumeta states that the reason the Facilitative mediator does not offer advice, recommendations or opinions is because this style developed when most mediators were volunteers and, thus, were not required to have expertise in the area of the dispute. However, it is the one which seems to respect the autonomy of the parties – they are not encouraged in any sense to arrive at decisions which will not serve them well.
Evaluative mediation developed in the 1980’s in response to the increased number of court-ordered and court-referred mediations (Etcheson 394). The evaluative mediator intervenes in the mediation more than the Facilitative mediator by making recommendations or providing opinions as to what might occur should the case go back to court (Zumeta).
Evaluative mediation is often used when money is an issue in the dispute. The evaluative mediator often has some expertise “in the substance of the dispute and applies his or her knowledge to offer an opinion of the merits of the case. This evaluation can either apply to the legal issues or factual issues, be they financial, engineering related or otherwise” (Russell).
A mediator using this style may also point out strengths and/or weaknesses of the positions proposed by each side of the dispute. Generally people engaging in this style of mediation will understand the process at the outset, and will see the advantage in the Mediators substantive knowledge of the subject in dispute.
Transformative mediation is considered one of the newer styles of mediation. This style was labelled “Transformative” in the book, The Promise of Mediation by Bush and Folger. While the Transformative style still keeps the structure of the Facilitative style, it also seeks to empower each of the parties and encourage each party to recognize the other party’s point of view.
The goal of this style is to transform the relationship between the two disputants during the mediation through empowerment and recognition (Zumeta). This style focuses a great deal on interaction and communication between the disputants (Linden).
Transformative mediators believe that conflict presents opportunities for individuals to change (transform) their interactions with others. Disputing parties can make their own decisions and gain perspective over their situations. The parties set their own agenda and decide what to discuss. The mediator supports the process, summarizes discussions, clarifies issues, and promotes confidence in making decisions. The mediator achieves this by “reflecting,” “summarizing,” “checking in,” and by asking “open ended questions.”
Anything outside of that scope does not fit into the Transformative framework. The mediation is considered successful when the parties participate in interactive communication that results in a clearer understanding of their situation and each other’s perspective. Often, this leads to resolution of the dispute.
This style of mediation is often employed in workplace disputes. The United States Postal Service, one of the biggest employers in the world, employs 1,000 Transformative mediators throughout the US, having found it most effective in resolving workplace conflict in their organisation.
The last style to be described is Narrative mediation. Narrative mediation borrows much of its style from narrative therapy (Billikopf-Encina, Narrative Mediation ). This style of mediation presupposes that people become caught in the conflict cycle because they see themselves as being bound to it.
A mediator using this style gets the parties to view the conflict from a distance, through story telling. After they finish with the story, the parties work with the mediator to create a new story where the conflict is replaced by an agreement leading to resolution.
The goal is to get the parties to detach themselves from the conflict. Linden states that this style works well when the disputants have an on-going relationship past the mediation. It is relatively a therapeutic approach, though it is increasingly used in organisational settings, such as workplaces.