The Five Steps of Negotiation and Mediation




Describe what each person wants.

Define your goals and your opponent's goals. Try this:

  1. Feedback: Listen carefully to the other person. Don't interrupt or make assumptions. Then use your own words to state what the other person says.
  2. Common Ground: Use words that help to define the conflict as a mutual problem.
  3. "I" Statements": State your needs and goals using I, me, my or mine (I want... I need...). Avoid always and never. Stick to the situation.
  4. Neutral: Avoid judgmental statements to explain how and why the other person's goals and behaviors interfere in your plans.
  5. Long-Term Focus: Focus on the importance of the long-term relationship in order to preserve and improve it.
The mediator helps disputants describe needs and feelings.
  1. In order to help disputants communicate clearly he or she must:
  2. ask each disputant to put in writing his/her request for mediation and the details of the conflict from their point of view.
  3. determine who will talk first and insure everyone listens without interrupting.
  4. help disputants commit to reaching a solution cooperatively.
  5. encourage disputants to identify common ground in each other's goals.
  6. ask open-ended questions and give feedback that rephrases answers to be sure that all disputants clearly understand each other's goals and feelings.

Do's & Don'ts

  1. Don't take sides.
  2. Don't give advice or suggestions.
  3. Do leave your own experience out of the conversation.
  4. Do organize issues on a large chart or chalkboard to help disputants focus on the conflict and on a solution.



Exchange reasons for positions.
  1. Win-Win: First, express cooperative intentions. Emphasize commitment to a mutually desired solution.
  2. State and clarify your reasons for your actions and your goals. Be sure disputants understand clearly the other's reasons. Clarify using open-ended questions and feedback: May I ask why? or Can you be more specific?
  3. Continued negotiation is based on two important factors.
    1. How important is your goal?
    2. How important is the other person's goal to him or her?
  4. Focus on meeting everyone's goals. Use common ground to think "outside the box." Both disputants must be creative and flexible.
    1. accept several possible solutions from which to choose;
    2. remain flexible about the option(s) you like best; and,
    3. keep open to the possibility that a better option may be available.
The mediator helps disputants share reasons for their positions.

Help disputants clearly state and explain their positions without loading their statements with emotional and judgmental wording. Help disputants:

  1. present their reasons;
  2. separate interests from positions; and,
  3. re-frame issues. To do this, mediators focus the discussion on:
    1. the conflict as a mutual problem with a possible win/win solution, rather than a win/lose proposition.
    2. both perspectives.
    3. the intent rather than the actual result of the action.
    4. a clear differentiation between disputants' interests and reasoning.
    5. the multiple meanings of any one behavior.
    6. keeping power between disputants equal.
    7. constructive statements and behaviors.



Understand each other's perspective.

Each disputant must be able to:

  1. take the other's perspective;
  2. understand how the conflict appears to him/her; and,
  3. empathize with that person's feelings and wishes.

Disputants should use feedback to check and recheck their perceptions by:

  1. describing the other person's feelings;
  2. asking each other to verify perspectives; and,
  3. avoiding judgmental expressions.
The mediator helps disputants understand each other's perspective.

Mediators request that disputants "put themselves in the other's shoes."

Role Reversal Technique:

  1. Ask Disputant A to portray Disputant B's desires and experiences.
  2. Ask Disputant B whether Disputant A was accurate.
  3. Ask Disputant B to portray Disputant A's desires and experiences.
  4. Ask Disputant A whether Disputant B was accurate.


Invent options for a win-win resolution.

Propose more than one good alternative solution. Avoid these pitfalls:

  1. Jumping to conclusions;
  2. Searching for a single answer;
  3. Assuming fixed possibilities; instead you should expand the view of circumstances surrounding the conflict.
  4. Focusing only on personal needs and wants; and,
  5. Thinking "inside the box"; sticking with the status quo or a narrow view of solution possibilities.

Different types of agreements can help maximize a win-win resolution.

  1. Expanding the Pie - Increase the available resources; what may be seen as shortages are not necessarily permanent.
  2. Package Deals - Incorporate several related issues into one agreement.
  3. Trade-Offs - Exchange two different objects or goals of comparable value.
  4. Tie-Ins - One opponent accepts another's offer if other goals are added to "sweeten the deal."
  5. Carve-Outs - Carve an issue out of a larger situation, leaving the related issues unsettled.
  6. Logrolling - Both parties give up their low-priority issues that are high priority to the other person.
  7. Cost Cutting - One person attains his/her aim while keeping the cost to the other at a bare minimum.
  8. Bridging the Gap - Create a new option that satisfies both parties' interests but that is different from each one's original goal, i.e. "thinking outside the box."
The mediator helps disputants invent options for a win-win resolution.

When each disputant has described 3-4 acceptable, alternative solutions, ask both to consider each alternative:

  1. Is this option acceptable to you?
  2. Is the option specific enough? Does it tell when, where, who, how?
  3. Is the option realistic? Can you do what you say you'll do?
  4. Does the option address your important priorities?
  5. Are responsibilities shared? Are you both agreeing to do something?

Thinking Outside the Box: help disputants think creatively to find solutions.

Use rephrasing, your organization chart and descriptions of different kinds of agreements.

Highlight the Pros: Mediators can increase disputants' motivation to resolve the conflict by highlighting the gains for resolution and the costs for no resolution.

Balance Sheet: As the negotiation progresses, help disputants complete a "balance sheet" on each of the alternative options that shows the gains and losses for each disputant for each option.

In the Future I Will...: When a solution is finally accepted by both disputants, ask each one to state his/her intentions for the future. How will they act differently per the agreement, in order to avoid future problems?


Reach a wise agreement.

A wise agreement must:

  1. meet everyone's legitimate needs and must be viewed as fair by everyone. It must include:
    1. clear descriptions of how all parties will act in the future; and,
    2. a simple, agreed-upon method of review and renegotiation if the agreement turns out to be unworkable.
  2. It must be based on objective criteria and offer each disputant:
    1. an equal chance of benefiting;
    2. fairness, i.e., taking turns or sharing;
    3. scientific merit, i.e., past history indicates it will work; and,
    4. tie-ins with community values.
  3. The process of reaching the agreement, and the agreement itself, must strengthen participants' ability to work together cooperatively and to resolve future conflicts constructively.
Mediators help disputants reach a wise agreement.

Mediators must help disputants think realistically about possible solutions.

  1. Will they be able to live up to their promises?
  2. Does the agreement truly satisfy them and clear away any resentments that could fester and erupt later?
  3. Is the means to review and re-negotiate the agreement, if necessary, easy to implement and follow?

Once agreement is reached, mediators must help t formalize the agreement. The contract must at least include:\

  1. Names of disputants;
  2. Dates of conflict incidents and mediation sessions;
  3. Brief descriptions of what disputants have agreed to do to resolve the conflict;
  4. Means of reviewing and renegotiating, if needed;
  5. Any role the mediator may have in the future; and,
  6. Signatures of all parties, including the mediator's.