"Creating a Safe, if not Sacred, Place for Dialogue"
Mark S. Umbreit, Ph.D.
Humanistic mediation represents a "dialogue-driven" rather than a "settlement-driven" form of conflict resolution. It focuses on the importance of meeting with the parties individually and in-person prior to the joint mediation session to listen to their story, build rapport, explain the process, and prepare them for engagement in a mediated dialogue. It is a nondirective style of mediation in which the parties are primarily speaking to each other with minimal intervention by the mediator. The mediator maintains an attitude of unconditional positive regard and concern for all parties while remaining impartial (i.e., not taking sides).
The mediator works to create a safe, if not sacred, place to foster direct dialogue among the parties about the emotional and material impacts of the conflict. Written settlement agreements often result from, but are not central to, the process. Humanistic mediation is a specific practice application of the broader theory of transformative mediation. Humanistic mediation emphasizes healing and peacemaking over problem solving and resolution. The telling and hearing of each other's stories about the conflict, the opportunity for maximum direct communication with each other, and the importance of honoring silence and the innate wisdom and strength of the participants are all central to humanistic mediation practice. Humanistic mediation has been applied in many settings including community mediation, victim-offender mediation, workplace mediation, family mediation, and peer mediation in schools.
Key Elements of Humanistic Mediation
Key Elements of Creating a Safe, if not Sacred, Place for Dialogue
Potential Blocks (for Some Victims and Offenders) to Creating a Safe Place for Dialogue
For More Information
School of Social Work, University of Minnesota
Umbreit, M.S. (1997) "Beyond Settlement-Driven Mediation: A Humanistic Model of Peace-Making." Canadian Mediation Interaction Network Journal (Spring): 16-17.
Umbreit, M.S. (1997) "Humanistic Mediation: A Transformative Journey of Peace-Making." Mediation Quarterly 14(3): 201-213.
Umbreit, M.S. (1995) Mediating Interpersonal Conflicts: A Pathway to Peace. West Concord, MN: CPI Publishing.