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The history of dispute resolution, mediation and arbitration

Names and Descriptions of 120 Mediation Techniques

In the early 1950s, three young mediators[1] in Detroit took notes while nine seasoned mediators discussed cases at weekly informal mediator gatherings. By 1953, they had drafted their notes into a 54 page document titled: “The Federal Mediator: His Responsibilities, Functions and Techniques.”[2] They presented their document to their very surprised Regional Director, because mediators in that era did not write. The Regional Director was so pleased with their work, he made copies and sent one to the Deputy National Director in Washington D.C., and to each of the other six Regional Directors. [3]

Within a few days, a senior mediator in Detroit came into the Regional Director’s office complaining about the 120 Techniques document. He told this story: the evening before while mediating he made a move with the union committee, and a union member asked if that technique was number 45 or 72. The mediator reported feeling embarrassed by the question because it assumed that he was using a script.

The upset Regional Director called the other Regional Directors and the National Deputy Director and asked them not to make copies and to return the original to him. [4]

Also on my website is my article “In Search of the Rosetta Stone of the Mediation Profession” that appeared in Negotiations Journal in July 1999. Among other things, I discuss how FMCS originally suppressed the historic document, which can be found on my website under Documents and then FMCS Papers.

Some of the technique descriptions are only a few sentences long, while a few cover an entire page.

[1] I spoke with two of them: David Tanzman and Irv Gerard.

[2] The document can be found on my website ( under Documents and then FMCS History.

[3] The document’s most interesting feature is a list and description of 120 mediator techniques. The eight titles above are examples of mediation techniques they identified.

[4] While recording oral histories of retirees years later in their homes, I was given a copy of the document by five retirees. Obviously, the copies were not all returned.

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