If Step 3 conversations fail, or if you are afraid of even being in the room with an adversary, then help from a facilitator or mediator might be the treatment of choice. But how can a facilitator (informal help) or mediator (formal help) make a difference, especially if the parties have already tried to reach agreement and have failed?
The answer from the front lines is two-fold. First, in confidential private meetings (sometimes called caucuses) parties often reveal key interests, facts and matters of the heart to mediators that they are reluctant to reveal to opponents or adversaries. Due to this feature alone, mediators often have a richer data set from which to help fashion a solution that the parties themselves do.
Second, a mediator can serve as a buffer as he/she creates a fair and civil process for discussion and negotiation. Remember, the mediator will not make a decision for the parties, but may offer creative ideas, and help reframe the discussion away from “positional bargaining” toward creative problem solving or resolution.
For a sample outline that has been used successfully in Interpersonal Peacemaking, click here. Notice that the checklist provides a structure for helping negotiate your own version of the Standard Solutions.