This chapter reminds us that mediation is more than simply staying out of court. It talks about the ways in which we individually and collectively and societally perceive conflict. We can see it as a form of war, in which there are winners, losers, and prisoners, or we can see it as opportunity, or as noted in the text, as a dance.
Notably, the concepts presented in Chapter 4 of New Directions on the Interpretive model are introduced here as well. The interpretive model shows three ways in which reality might be perceived in relation to conflict: Moral reality, in which our sense of right and wrong determine the more correct solution, Conflict Reality, in which we determine what conflict is and how it should be handled (e.g. war or dance) and Justice Reality, in which we determine what is the most just outcome, such as Solomon’s division of the baby might suggest.
Personal experiential influence:
Finally, there is a suggestion in an exercise to develop our own metaphor for mediation, which I personally found to be a very useful exercise. My metaphor was mediation as steam engine.
Pressure is building due to the combustion of conflicting sides, and without the strong structure of mediation holding the path of the energy, the engine itself could burst. The productive outcome is the work being done by the engine, though the engine itself could be used to do many different kinds of work: solving property disputes, improving work relations, devising innovative outcomes, etc. The fuel for the engine is the willingness and trust of the participants. The steam that is building could be released and scald someone, or it could continue through the strong guide of the engine and be productive. The edges of the engine are not fire, not steam, not fuel, not the work itself, but are essential for those other elements to work together to be productive.
Domenici, K., Domenici-Littlejohn, & Littlejohn, S. W. (2001). Mediation: Empowerment in Conflict Management, Second Edition (2nd ed., p. 198). Waveland Press.