Divide to unite
In dispute mediation, mediators, perhaps counterintuitively, make the disagreement between parties explicit and formulate their interventions on the disagreement in such a way that the disagreement is made manageable. In this paper, three functions of identifying and elucidating the parties’ disagreement that demonstrate the importance of making disagreement salient – (1) uncovering real issues, (2) emphasizing conflict ownership, (3) making disagreements manageable – are presented. Corpora of mediation simulation transcripts are used as empirical bases for the analyses of the means by which mediators make disagreement explicit (the how) and for what specific functions they do so (the why). The three aspects of strategic maneuvering (van Eemeren 2010) are used to analyze how mediators construct the interventions on the disagreement in terms of: (a) the topics they select from the topical potential, (b) the adjustment of interventions to suit their intended addressee(s), and (c) what presentational devices are used.