This section provides a definitive guide to the theories and principles of mediation. TCM mediators draw upon many theories, approaches and practises during their work. This depth of knowledge and ability to apply a tried and tested approach to a specific set of circumstances means that our mediators and facilitators are equipped to resolve even the most complex workplace situation. Each definition contains up to the minute best practice along with details of useful websites and experts in each field.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI)

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is about learning what makes an organisation tick, what makes it a great place to work and enhancing that, so the organisation can learn and develop more of the same. As suggested by the name, this is a process of asking questions that allow people space to reflect on what is good about their organisation and what they can do to enhance that ‘goodness’.

“People live in the worlds their questions create …… if you wish to change your world, you must change your way of asking questions. It could be the moment you do so, a totally new world will take shape around you.” From the Encyclopedia of Positive Questions, Whitney et al, 2002. AI can enhance mediation when the mediator can focus on what has been good, what has been positive and how that positivity can be recreated within the future world of the party.


Examples of four key AI questions used by TCM mediators when working with groups who are experiencing conflict:

  1. What has been your best experience of working in your team – a time when you felt most alive, most engaged, and proud of yourself and your work?
  2. What’s really important about this experience?
  3. What do you value most about it? What do you value most about your work?
  4. Without being humble, what do you value most about yourself and the way that you do your work?

Key Authors: David Cooperrider, check out this website


In most jurisdictions, arbitration is considered part of Alternative Dispute Resolution family (ADR), however, in the United Kingdom it is not considered ADR due to its close links with litigation. Arbitration is a private method of dispute resolution, chosen by the parties themselves as an alternative to litigation. The process is facilitated by one or more third party (the arbitrators) who has the authority to make the decision (award).

The outcome of arbitration can either be binding or non-binding. In cases of alleged unfair dismissal or claims under flexible working legislation, the arbitration service Acas run an Arbitration Scheme. The parties can choose the arbitrators, the process, the governing law to be applied and the seat of the arbitration. The practice of resolving disputes by arbitration only works because it is held in place by a complex system of national laws and international treaties.

There are several differences and similarities between arbitration and mediation and perhaps the most important one is that in mediation the parties have the authority to make the decision. The mediator (third party) is there to facilitate the process. In arbitration the parties do not make the decision, this is why some theorists say arbitration is not ADR and is similar to litigation.

Further Reading:

References Redfern, A. and Hunter, M., (2004), Law and Practice of International Commercial Arbitration, (4th Ed, student version), Sweet and Maxwell, London.

Belbin Team Role Inventory

The Belbin Team Role Inventory was developed by Dr. Meredith Belbin, a British researcher and management theorist who is best known for his work on management teams. It is a behavioural tool which assesses how individuals behave in a team environment. Belbin identified nine clusters of behaviour or Team Roles. Each Team Role has particular strengths and weaknesses, and each has an important contribution to make to a team. The assessment includes a self-perception questionnaire as well as 360-degree feedback from team members, and it scores individuals on how strongly they express traits from the nine Team Roles.

Belbin Team Role Inventory is not a psychometric test and the Team Roles are not equivalent to personality types; an individual often exhibits strong tendencies towards multiple Team Roles. Another key distinction is that Team Role preferences are not fixed as factors such as a new job, promotion or other life change can influence behaviour. Belbin Team Roles are useful when mediating team disputes or when rebuilding teams post-conflict. They can improve self-awareness, understanding and communication amongst teams, and in so doing help team members to recognise each other’s strengths, play to those strengths and build a more effective and contented team.

As a healthy team comprises all nine roles, team members who have previously clashed over differing work styles can learn to value each other’s unique roles and contributions to the team. Belbin can also help to identify gaps that may need filling in a dysfunctional team and help the team to understand why there may be particular clashes. Check out the Belbin institutes website for more information

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a form of Psychotherapy based on two approaches:

  1. Cognitive therapy, which is designed to change people’s thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and expectations.
  2. Behavioural therapy, which is designed to change how people act.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is usually a short-term therapy around 6 sessions, which focuses on the present rather than the past. It is often used for those with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders, bereavement and many more emotional and behavioral problems. CBT is based on the assumption that emotional distress is caused by the way we think, and that changing our way of thinking alleviates worry, anxiety and emotional distress. There are two elements to this approach:

  1. How you think about yourself, the world and other people and how this influences your thoughts.
  2. How what you do (behaviour) affects your thoughts and feelings

In CBT, the way a person thinks underpins feelings and behaviour. The therapist helps the individual to examine their self-beliefs, perceptions and thinking patterns, and identify how this impact on their emotional wellbeing, and actions. Setting homework between sessions is a key part of CBT, which may consist of journal and diary keeping, as well experiments to test out new ways of thinking and responding. TCM mediators apply CBT approaches in our mediation practice. In particular we assist the parties adjust their cognitive distortions (perceptions of a threat or harm) by engaging them in a process of future focused and needs based questioning. Party – “I don’t want my manager to shout at me” TCM Mediator – “How do you want your manager to communicate with you?”

Further reading:



Conciliation is very similar to mediation and the two terms are often used interchangeably. In conciliation, as in mediation, an independent person (the conciliator) tries to help the people in dispute to resolve their problem. This can be done over the phone where the conciliator speaks to both parties or it can be done in person, though in conciliation, unlike mediation, the parties often do not meet.

The conciliator will talk to each party until concessions have been made and an agreement is reached. In mediation, the mediator tries to guide the discussion in a way that optimizes parties’ needs, takes feelings into account and reframes representations. In conciliation the agreement can be binding where as in mediation it is not. The conciliator should be impartial and should not take one party’s side. The parties in dispute are responsible for deciding how to resolve the dispute, not the conciliator.

Further reading:


Conflict is often unavoidable, it is inescapable and in many organisations,  it is a healthy expression of creativity, diversity and change. Conflict can exist between two or more individuals or within groups who perceive their goal to be incompatible. Incompatible goals can include needs, values and interests. At TCM, we view conflict as the result of loss which arises from these unmet needs. As with grief, the parties in dispute experience:

  • Stage 1: Shock, Denial, Numbness
  • Stage 2: Fear, Anger, Depression
  • Stage 3: Understanding, Acceptance, Moving

(For more information on loss in conflict and our reaction to it, click here) Other definitions of conflict describe it as a result of hostile behaviour or/and including incompatible goals. This results in a “unique” type of conflict behaviour where individuals demonstrate destructive responses to conflict in order to achieve their own goal. It is the destructive conflict behaviour that causes damage to the relationship between the parties.

Mediation aims to get to the root cause of conflict by helping the party in a dispute to understand their own needs and interests and also that of the other party. The overall aim is to bring those goals closer together in order to understand the common ground to enable the parties to reach agreement.

Further reading: »

References Bartos, Otomar J, and Wehr, Paul., (2002), Using Conflict Theory, Cambridge University Press, USA

Conflict prevention

Conflict prevention is a central pillar of Total Conflict Management (TCM). Conflict prevention is not conflict avoidance as it includes methods and mechanisms used to identify, minimise and prevent escalation of conflicts and disputes. Mediation can be employed at any stage of a conflict but is most effective in the early stages to prevent escalation of the dispute. The learning resulting from a conflict situation can then be applied to help in the prevention of future conflicts.

Conflict resolution

Conflict resolution encompasses a variety of processes which seek to eliminate and alleviate the sources and causes of conflict. Conflict resolution is an increasingly important feature of organisational systems and cultures. Conflict resolution brings many benefits:

  • Resolves intractable and destructive conflicts
  • Identifies the root cause of conflict
  • Encourages modification of behaviours and attitudes
  • Promotes cohesion.

Mediation is a form of conflict resolution which also falls under the “Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)” banner.


Empathy is the capacity to understand another person’s feelings and experiences. It is often described as ‘putting yourself in another person’s shoes. Empathy is core to a successful mediation. Firstly, mediators must be able to feel and demonstrate empathy towards both parties, if they are to build trust and rapport with the parties and encourage the parties to share their stories openly. Secondly, mediators help parties to appreciate and empathise with each other’s experiences, values, needs, perceptions and feelings.

Mediators do this through encouraging and facilitating open and honest dialogue, particularly about the feelings and needs surrounding the conflict. Empathy is not to be mistaken with sympathy or pity, both of which show partiality.

Further reading:

Evaluative mediation


This is a directive form of mediation in which the mediator evaluates the strength of a party’s position and points out the flaws in each party’s case. An evaluative mediator can make recommendations to the parties as to the possible outcomes of various issues. The key difference though with evaluative mediation and other forms of mediation is that the emphasis here is less on each person’s positions, needs and interest but more firmly focused on their legal rights and securing a legally binding solution. The evaluative mediator structures the process; however, they also directly influence the outcome of mediation. Evaluative mediation can be seen as the tool of the courts to help resolve cases which can be prolonged in the court system.


Facilitative mediation

Previously one of the only forms of mediation available in the 60’s and 70’s the content of facilitative mediation sessions is controlled entirely by the parties. Mediators help parties to come to agreement based on the creation of empathy and an understanding of each other’s needs. Facilitative mediation is empowering to the individuals involved in a dispute as the sole goal is to help those involved gain an understanding of the factors that have led to the issues that they have had.

It has been said that facilitative mediation is not solution focused enough, however there is an approach to mediation which takes the key components of facilitative mediation and points them directly at a firm resolution. This model of mediation acts as the basis for TCM’s FAIR model of mediation which focuses firmly on the parties, their narrative, its impact and what they need from the other person involved in order to move the relationship out of conflict. Check out this article by Zena Zumeta:

Fight or Flight

This phrase, so dubbed by psychologists, refers to our body’s fundamental and innate responses that prepare our bodies to react to a perceived threat to our survival. When activated we respond to our environment in a far different way than when inactive. In brief it overrides all rational thinking as the system seeks to maintain one thing only and that is survival either through getting away from or eliminating the danger.

It is argued that the same hard-wired system within our brain still operates today and is stimulated by acute stresses and the perception of any threat to our wellbeing. To that end when in conflict, for instance at work, we recognize that potentially there is a lot at stake and much of that ties in to the fact that we are at work as part of a survival mechanism (to get money nourish ourselves) when our job status or position at work is threatened it is easy to see why the body may take this as a very serious threat.

Individuals will be on heightened alert to anything which feeds into their perception of the threat and this could certainly be seen as irrational behaviour and overreacting from those who are not perceiving the same threat. It is essential for mediators to be able the recognize the behaviours which are involved in fight or flight reactions in order to help parties rationalize their own behaviour by considering alternatives and reflecting on how these reactions may affect others.

For example, a party who leaves the room as soon as the person who they have been in conflict with enters, may be asked to consider how this may be perceived in the other persons mind and if whether that is something they would want; if not, what alternative ways of dealing with the situation are available? Check out this website


Litigation is a form of dispute resolution. Unlike ADR litigation involves a judge who has the authority to make decisions. Each party is represented by a lawyer to argue their case. Unlike mediation or conciliation, litigation is not voluntary or confidential and can take a long time to resolve.

In mediation, disputes can be resolved in one day and at very little cost to the parties. Litigation is a process known to destroy the relationship between the parties whereas mediation and other ADR processes seek to preserve the relationship. Parties often enter into litigation under the premise that they will have their day in court, be victorious, humiliate the other party and walk away vindicated and richer.

These outcomes are rarely achieved. It is the costliest dispute resolution process in current times. The process has rules and procedures governed by law. The judge makes his decision based on evidence and the argument put forward. It results in a win/lose outcome. In litigation, any decision is binding on the parties where as in other ADR processes it is not. Further reading


Mediation is a process of dispute resolution in which an impartial third party (the mediator) facilitates a series of private and joint meetings with the parties. Mediation is both voluntary and confidential. Mediation enables all parties in a dispute to develop an empathic and constructive interaction. It addresses the underlying (root) causes of conflict or tension.

Mediators create the conditions for dialogue using a non-adversarial, non-partisan approach. The final outcome of mediation is one which is mutually acceptable – agreed by the parties, not the mediator. Mediation can be used by anyone who is experiencing a conflict or a dispute at work. If you wish to use mediation, it is generally advisable to speak with your manager or HR Officer who can make the necessary arrangements. Alternatively, please call the NATIONAL WORKPLACE MEDIATION HELPLINE 0800 294 97 87 to discuss your needs in absolute confidence.

Mind mapping

Mind Mapping was originated by Tony Buzan as a way of helping people to learn more effectively. Mind mapping uses colour, shapes and dimensions to record information in a practical and fun way. A mind map creates a clear picture/ map of all relevant and interlinked points. Mind Mapping may be used to capture, or structure information being received from parties at any stage of the mediation It is particularly helpful during the 1st and 2nd meetings as it helps the mediator build their mental picture of what is going on for the parties. Key Authors: Tony Buzan Key. Check out these websites:

Narrative Mediation

Narrative Mediation was derived from Narrative Therapy. Narrative therapy takes people on a journey using narratives or story telling. It believes people are the experts in their own lives. It separates the person from the problem and believes people have the “skills, competencies, beliefs, values, commitments and abilities that will enable them to reduce the influence of problems that are affecting their lives”(Morgan, 2000). In this context, narrative mediation differs from the more frequently practiced interest-based mediation and focuses on the construction of an alternate story or narrative. This model “assumes that disputes are rooted in conflict-saturated stories that parties have developed throughout their relationship” (Picard and Melchin, 2007).

The mediator works collaboratively with the parties to help build a better understanding of the narratives behind the conflict. Mediators look for the social, historical, cultural, and personal factors and assumptions that under pin the conflict in order to help the parties create an alternative narrative based on cooperation and mutual respect (Picard and Melchin, 2007). Interest-based mediation focuses on the problem itself and the outcome. Narrative mediation encourages a deeper exploration of the relationship that allows participants to “reconstruct the conflict to not only resolve the immediate issues but to disengage” from the conflict-saturated stories in an attempt to achieve deeper understanding (Nagao and Page, 2005).

Further reading:

References: Picard, Cheryl A, and melchin, Kenneth R., (2007), Insight Mediation: A Learning-Centered Mediation Model, Negotiation Journal, President and Fellows of Harvard College, USA. Morgan, Alice., (2000), What is Narrative Therapy? An Easy to Read Introduction. Angela Nagao and Norman R. Page

Non Violent Communication (NVC)

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a model for communicating compassionately, founded by Marshall B. Rosenberg. It provides a way of relating to ourselves and others out of an awareness of feelings and needs, rather than through blaming, accusatory, generalised language. The four components of NVC are:

  1. Objective OBSERVATION of a specific event or behaviour – “When you…”
  2. Expression of the resultant FEELING – “I feel/felt…”
  3. Expression of unmet NEED – “Because I need…”
  4. Specific REQUEST – “Next time, please could you…?”

NVC can be very useful for mediators, as it can enable centred speaking and active listening to occur, and for the needs of all parties to be met. In particular it has the following uses:

  • In the individual meetings with parties – if parties are struggling to articulate their story, NVC can give them a helpful structure;
  • In the joint meeting – as above, if parties are struggling to express themselves, NVC can provide a useful model;
  • Post-mediation – when reflecting on your mediation practice, creating NVC statements can develop self-awareness around your triggers, strong feelings and needs. When debriefing with a co-mediator, it can provide a safe, non-blaming way to discuss challenges and give feedback.

Check out the Centre for Non-Violent Communications website

Problem solving

Problem solving forms part of our cognitive processes. There are many approaches to problem solving, depending on the nature of the problem and the people involved in the problem. The Problem-solving techniques typically used and involves, are clarifying description of the problem, analysing causes, brainstorming and identifying alternatives, assessing each alternative, choosing one, implementing it, and evaluating whether the problem was solved or not. Problem solving is a key skill for mediators to enable the parties to explore alternatives in resolving their dispute. The mediator will facilitate the process so that parties work collaboratively together in resolving their dispute resulting in a win/win outcome.


Further reading:

Restorative justice

Restorative Justice (RJ) is an increasingly important and effective form of justice. Its focus is on wrongdoing and crime against the individual or the community. The person who has harmed takes responsibility for their actions – within RJ, it is recognised that the person harmed has an important role in the process. This can take the form of an apology and reparation directly or indirectly from the person who has caused harm to the victim. Critically, Restorative Justice often promotes dialogue between the victim and offender. Restorative Justice shares many values with those that are the foundation of Mediation:

  • Honesty, respect and empowerment
  • Positivity and appreciation
  • Collaboration
  • Engagement
  • Voluntary nature
  • Healing and transformation
  • Restoration
  • Accountability
  • Inclusiveness
  • Problem-Solving

Check out this website for more information

Solution Focused Brief Therapy

The first thing to say about this is that the essence of the process as in the name is that it is a concise look at problems and finding solutions. It is focused around three key component questions

  • What are your best hopes from this therapy?
  • What would your day-to-day-life look like if these hopes were realised?
  • What are you already doing and have done in the past that might contribute to these hopes being realized

From the outset, it is about moving forward and is based critically on the outlined needs of the individual and the questioning style used is not too dissimilar to the challenging questions asked by mediators in the second meeting of the TCM FAIR Model. The facilitator acknowledges and appreciates the position of the party as the starting point for their question and then poses the question from this point to examine the individual’s range of generating options and results from the position they are in to where they want to be. This is very similar to the way in which we as mediators try to help parties to consider their needs and alternative options before entering the joint meeting. Check out this website

Total Quality Management (TQM)

TQM is a set of management practises throughout an organisation, focused towards the meeting and exceeding of customer requirements. TQM puts emphasis on process measurement and controls for continuous improvement. TQM is also used as a business strategy to embed quality awareness in all aspects of a company’s processes and culture. Total Conflict Management (TCM) is a company that applies TQM constantly throughout the organisation to give continuous added value to clients. We also apply TQM principles in our management consultancy and strategic change management activities. Check out this website


Mediation is a process which tends to result in a transformation in the relationship between parties, whatever the outcome. This is because mediation tends to involve the sharing of new information and often a fresh perspective to a situation due to the nature of the process and the role of the mediator, who is a neutral third party. Through the application of learning outcomes through a process such as mediation, a transformation can occur which can help to create an environment less prone to conflict. John Paul Lederach is an international peacebuilder and an advocate of conflict transformation. He views conflict transformation as constructive social change and less in terms of skills and processes. Another leading expert in the field is Johan Galtung. Check out this website

Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR)

Unconditional positive regard is the love we receive from other people for who we are as a person, regardless of our faults. It is a concept in client-centred therapy, which was created by Carl Rogers. Carl Rogers considered UPR as one of three conditions necessary for positive change, the other two being Empathy and Genuineness. This is a concept important in Mediation as it also encourages us to see parties in a positive way: worthy of the mediator’s support and capable of finding their own solutions to a conflict situation through empowerment. The UPR approach incorporates elements common to mediation such as:

  • A non judgemental attitude
  • Warmth
  • Caring
  • Acceptance

Check out this website