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A Mediator's Dilemma: Acknowledging or Disregarding Stance Displays

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Mediators must strike a balance. On the one hand, they must direct participants' talk toward possible agreement. On the other hand, they must be sensitive and responsive to participants' evident stance (including affect and point of view) toward what is happening. In a case study of a videotaped, actual small claims court mediation session, several moments in which these competing constraints appear evident in the talk are analyzed. One participant (the landlord in a housing dispute) provides repeated indicators of his stance. The mediator disregards several of these. Finally, in a private caucus session, he acknowledges the landlord's stance. Understanding how talk works in such moments can help mediators respond sensitively to participants while maintaining impartiality and guiding the mediation process.

Keywords: conversation analysis; empathy; formulations; mediation; neutrality; stance

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2010


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