Negotiations essentially are dysfunctional small groups. They need to be managed to determine a common goal, establish objectives and set a course to obtain the desired results. Mediators are trained to manage such small groups and lead them to resolution. Negotiators and parents can adopt mediation techniques to improve their skills at handling conflict.
A mediator delegates responsibilities not only to get the job done but also to give everyone a vested interest in the outcome. By directing and delegating, the mediator effectively makes both parties more equal and more likely to be able to come to an agreement. In the right situation, using inclusion to integrate everyone's needs into the solution can yield very positive results.
Mediators are masters of group manipulation. They must get warring parties to set aside their differences and reach an accord. Most people are used to being told what is right to do. A mediator is unable to make the decision for the group. He does not function as a judge or jury. He must enable each of the parties to make their own settlement decisions.
To succeed mediators must make others want to do things they don't always want to do. Managers and leaders are often accused of being masters of manipulation. Getting people to do things they would not ordinarily want to do can involve, among other things, manipulation. But this is typically a subset of the use of effective leadership and management skills. While manipulation has a bad connotation of trickery or deceit, it can be simply good negotiating. When managing the negotiating process you are seeking to maneuver the other person into agreeing to your terms. You achieve this by informing, educating and convincing them of your arguments. If a little manipulation will get them to consider your arguments is required, then it is well suited to the purpose.
Being able to lead others, convincing them to hear what is being said, and to consider options is a mark of a good leader. Tricking others into doing your will is not. Use of trickery will likely lead to agreements that fall apart after the test of time.
In any dispute those involved make up a small group and are subject to traditional group dynamics. Groups need to be lead or managed. Filling this role is what makes mediators effective at resolving disputes. Similarly, negotiators who take the initiative to become the informal group leaders are most likely to have the best track record of achieving their goals.
The author is an assistant editor at How-to-Negotiate.com, a site featuring articles about business management skills required in the dispute settlement process and how people negotiate everything in their daily lives be it personal issues, parenting matters, social conflicts, or business or work related challenges. The site promotes the fact that conflict is a natural aspect of everyone's life and we should all work at improving our ability to negotiate the curves life throws our way.