History of Mediation

Mediation has been used as a method of dispute resolution in a variety of different cultures for more than 3,000 years. Tracing the roots of the practice has been a journey of culture, understanding, translation, war and peace.
Ancient History:  Romans called mediators by a number of names, internuncios, me-dium, intercessor, philantropus, interpolator, conciliator, interlocutor, interpres, and mediator.  (Roman law in 530-533CE).  Mediators are commonly confused with arbitrators, judges, attorneys, councilors or ministers.

Biblical: Paul directed the Corinthians to appoint people from their own community for the purpose of resolving disputes rather than submitting disputes to the court for resolution. I Corinthinans 6:1-4

Modern Applications:  1863, in Tug Fork, Appalachia:  A communication problem has started to flare up between two neighbors.  But all of us know the results.   The Hatfields and McCoys gained their fame from the killings that resulted from their dispute, some say, over a hog.  A deeper look into the history shows a 30 year long story involving competition over changing economic times, great opportunities and the desire of eastern corporations and state government to foster economic development in the region.

Although the historical record is silent on the specific origins of the trouble, it seems to have been related to the market for timber; increasing financial opportunities as the railroads moved into the area, a property dispute, and the obvious lack of a Community Mediation Service. 

Modern “fathers” and scholars of mediation Roger Fisher and William Ury, published the first edition of Getting to Yes! in 1981.  Getting to Yes! is an organized, succinct, process for employing mediation in any context.  Their concept is grounded in moving people from Positional Bargaining into Interest Based Negotiation.  An Excerpt:

“Whether a negotiation concerns a contract, a family quarrel, or a peace settlement among nations, people routinely engage in positional bargaining.  Each side takes a position, argues for it, and makes concessions to reach a compromise.  The classic example is the haggling that takes place between a customer and the proprietor of a second hand store.” 

The book innovatively explained how a simple process can be applied to everything from a flea market bargain to nuclear arms treaties.  Getting to Yes! was followed by Getting Past No and Getting Together, and people all over the country from academia to the business world began to take notice.  

Their process focuses on 4 principles: 
1.         Separate the people from the problem 
2.         Focus on interests not positions
3.         Invent options for mutual gain
4.         Insist on objective criteria

The method you learn in Community Dispute Resolution Centers throughout the U.S. and around the world use these same principles.

Local History: Six Rivers Dispute Resolution Center is a conflict prevention and intervention program that can address conflicts before they escalate into angry arguments, litigation, or violent situations.
To Prevent and Intervene in potentially dangerous conflicts. 

By establishing a forum where each party is heard, we teach listening.
By creating an environment where each party can speak, we teach communication.
By developing processes that seek resolution, we teach the importance of dialogue.
By building these processes into a method of mediating disputes we teach citizenship.

To aid community members in finding mutually agreeable solutions to disputes and to reduce the number of disturbances that could escalate into litigation.  This goal is accomplished by providing conflict resolution skills to neighborhood residents and groups, and by creating a model for the whole community that teaches better listening and communication skills.

Pay Attention to History:

Recognize the impact of history.  We bring our histories with us, including: past interactions with people we are in conflict with, the struggles and successes throughout our lives, and the deeper histories of our people.