Who Keeps Things Under Control?

After the initial airing of rules and views, the mediation enters a problem­solving phase. During this phase, often called the “Caucus Phase,” the mediator holds one or a series of private meetings, or caucuses, with each party. At this point, the mediator literally conducts “shuttle diplomacy” ­ he or she shuttles between or among the parties, probing each side’s position, asking questions, assessing the merits of each argument, narrowing the issues by identifying what is important versus what is expendable, and exploring alternative solutions. The mediator may request additional documents from participants to fully understand the case from each side’s perspective. At the same times he or she works to defuse any hostility, in part by reframing the issues in obective language. A major advantage of mediation is that the process allows the parties to “vent” and engage in a sort of catharsis by having their “day in court.” This therapeutic interaction often helps move parties to settlement.

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