The Blackwell Handbook Of Mediation
Conflict Solved: DocPegisIN



Margaret S. Herrman, THE BLACKWELL HANDBOOK OF MEDIATION: Bridging Theory, Research, and Practice (Blackwell 2006 ISBN 1405127422)

Review Article by Forrest Mosten


One of the goals of any professional is to be a “life-long learner.” Herrman's monumental treatise makes it possible for all of us in the field of mediation to work toward that goal.

Herrman facilitates a reviewer's work by doing a thorough job herself of vibrantly laying out her carefully thought out premise for her work and the contributions of the all star cast of experts who have contributed chapters.

Drawing on three disparate areas of conflict resolution research, psychology, social psychology, and problem solving, Herrman lays out a proposed model of mediation study which she calls “a conversation waiting to happen.” Free as possible of hyperbolic self praise or pejorative views toward other approaches, Herrman and her co-model theorists, Nancy Hollett and Jerry Gale (HHG) present a comprehensive model for the study of mediation. This model is based on three areas of research: disputes that are self-reported in natural settings rather than in experimental conditions; interpersonal disputes rather than organizational; and mediation either in private settings or within the courts that operate within the shadow of future litigation. 1

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The HHG model is also based on 10 assumptions with each assumption grounded by respectable research. As an example, HHG assumptions #8 and #9 are based on the work of DW and DT Johnson. 2 #8 Assumption states: “Exposure to different opinions, information, and interpretations of life experiences can arouse a state of cognitive disequilibrium that helps to thaw positions. Assumption #9, based both on Johnson and the work of Janis and Mann, 3 states: “Uncertainty motivates an active search for more information.” Teachers and trainers of mediation should start revising their presentations and materials to link strategies at the table with such assumptions and findings of the model developed by Margaret Herrman, Nancy Hollett, and Jerry Gale (hereinafter referred to as the HHG Model).

HHG are explicit about the purpose and limitations of their Model. The researchers look deeply into the three prong process set out by Carrie Menkel Meadow: 4  the negotiator's mindset, the process used by the mediator, and the goal or end product resulting from the mediation. As only one example of the comprehensive nature of this model, HHG look at the negotiator's mindset by focusing on the following basic criteria to determine readiness to mediate: personal characteristics of disputants and mediators; the beliefs and attitude of disputants; various characteristics of the dispute (legal, conflict, and interpersonal dynamics); and the impact of the institutional context in resolving the dispute (how the process offers access, efficiency, and information to resolve the dispute). HHG use this same rigorous examination to look at the process and outcome components of Menkel-Meadow's process by providing helpful charts containing ready and abundant available back-up research.

Since the book's title starts with “Handbook,” it might be useful to compare Herrman's treatise to the Handbook of Conflict Resolution (2001) edited by social scientists, Morton Deutsch and Peter Coleman. Deutsch and Coleman's Handbook is a primer for the study of conflict generally. Herrman's work builds on the academic foundation of Deutsch, who contributes a chapter in this book on how the HHG theory can be applied to mediation and difficult conflicts such as hostage taking. 5  Yet, the HHG Model builds beyond Deutsch. By postulating the unifying theory developed through the Mediator Skills Program, Herrman's work has both a theory and focus on mediation (rather than conflict resolution or general ADR principles) to anchor the diverse and broad discussion. Further, Herrman supplements her collection of scholars with chapters from leading mediation practitioners such as Donald T. Saposnek and Zena Zumeta, and trainers John Winslade and Gerald Monk, who add their experience at the table to ground the theory and social science research that comprise most of the book. Two leading thinkers in the conflict resolution field should take particular pride in Herrman's book, even though they are not direct contributors to this book. With the publication and discussion of his Grid and New Grid, 6  Leonard Riskin paved the way for Herrman's scholarly approach to examining the different forms of mediation and how the variables of directive/elicitive and facilitative/evaluative impact the process. Christopher Honeyman also deserves recognition for his years of encouraging both scholars and practitioners in conflict resolution to symbiotically learn from each other. 7

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One of the shortcomings of Herrman's work is the limited credit given Honeyman's Theory to Practice initiatives of seminars and publications that he inspired. Ironically, it was Honeyman and Professor David Matz of the University of Massachusetts, who assembled scholars and practitioners in March, 2003 to each read and present individual chapters of the Deutsch and Coleman Handbook to the other participants of the large “book club” who had traveled to Boston to learn together.

Much as the Family Law Education Reform Project 8  is currently developing curricula to teach family law in law schools, perhaps a similar project is needed to translate Herrman's book for students and practitioners who lack the academic background, time, or perhaps interest to properly devote to Herrman's treatise. The public would benefit if practicing conflict resolution professionals could gain a working knowledge of the Herrman Model and the nuances raised by her contributing authors. Devoting several months' agendas of family professional study groups 9 to read and discuss chapters from the Herrman work may touch the growing number of professionals motivated to take on such extra-curricular study by regular participation in these peer led groups or in tutorial supervised groups directed by experienced practitioners and trainers in the field. 10  As a teacher and trainer of both professionals and law students, I intend to start translating key concepts of Herrman's book into my course materials and power points - but would even more welcome other conflict resolution educators joining me in this project so that my students could benefit from “off the shelf” Herrman translations. As hinted above, perhaps Honeyman and Matz or others could hold soirees around various parts of the world for conflict resolution teachers and trainers to dive into this treatise the way we studied Deutsch and Coleman's Handbook. Or, Family Court Review , Harvard Negotiation Journal, or other scholarly publications read by family practitioners might devote special issues dedicated to translating and exploring this book for those who do not have the time, resources, or interest to study this work in a more formal academic setting.

Ironically, one of the disappointments of this book is that there is not enough of HHG thinking offered to the reader and too many other voices mute the message of the HHG theorists and dilute the impact of the Comprehensive Model. The HHG Model itself is so important that it could have stood on its own, leaving commentary for future publication by Herrman or others. Drawing on her research with others, Herrman reported descriptions of 18 knowledge areas and 13 skills. 11  Even in an effort to condense her monumental model, Chapter 2: “Mediation from Beginning to End: A Testable Model,” is 60 pages long with 9 pages of sources and 78 endnotes encompassing 10 pages. This chapter is a book in itself that the authors could have congruently discussed and expanded without some of the dissonance of the contributing authors that could be left to subsequent books and articles.

Herrman has provided us with the resources and agenda for much exploration. The “conversation” she predicted that was “waiting to happen” is already happening and will continue to happen over the next several years. I personally look forward to participating in and learning from this conversation as it contributes to our work at the table and in the classroom.
1. Robert H. Mnookin & Lewis A. Kornhauser, Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: The Case of Divorce , 88 Y ale L. J. 950 (1979).
2. David W. Johnson, Roger T. Johnson, & Dean Tjosvold, Constructive Controversy: The Value of Intellectual Opposition , in The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice 65–85 (Morton Deutsch & Peter T. Coleman eds., 2d ed. 2006).
3. Irving L. Janis & Leon Mann, Decision Making: A Psychological Analysis of Conflict, Choice and Commitment (1977).
4. Carrie Menkel-Meadow, Toward Another View of Legal Negotiation: The Structure of Problem Solving, 31 UCLA L. Rev. 754 (1984). 
5. See Robert H. Mnookin, When Not to Negotiate: A Negotiation Imperialist Reflects on Appropriate Limits, 74 U. Colo. L. Rev. 1077 (2003).
6. Leonard L. Riskin, Who Decides What?: Rethinking the Grid of Mediator Orientations , 9 Dispute Resolution Magazine 22 (American Bar Association, 2003).
7. Christopher Honeyman, Barbara McAdoo, & Nancy Welsh, Here There Be Monsters: At the Edge of the Map of Conflict Resolution, (Office of Dispute Resolution, Georgia Sup. Ct. 2001); Christopher Honeyman, Barbara McAdoo, & Nancy Welsh, Not Quite Protocols: Toward Collaborative Research in Dispute Resolution , 19 Conflict Resolution Quarterly (2001).
8. Mary E. O'Connell & J. Herbie DiFonzo, The Family Law Education Reform Project Final Report , 44 Fam. Ct. Rev. 524 (2006).
9. See Forrest S. Mosten , Mediation Career Guide 77–8, 186–7 (Jossey-Bass 2001).
10. In Southern California, professional study groups of lawyers and mediators abound throughout the region. For example, a group of 10–12 lawyers and mediators meet monthly with me to discuss discrete topics, review literature, and discuss case evaluation. Similar “private mediation training” efforts go on throughout the country. Probably the longest running small group in Chicago, Illinois is now in need of a new group leader with the sudden and untimely passing of its supervisor, Lynn Jacob, who died suddenly in July, 2006. The members of her group as well as the entire peacemaking community mourn Lynn's passing and will long remember her accomplishments as President of The Academy of Family Mediators, skilled mediator and therapist, and beloved colleague. See Special Memoriam to Lynn Jacob, Family Mediation News, Association of Conflict Resolution Family Section (, Summer 2006.
11. The Blackwell Handbook of Mediation: Bridging Theory, Research, and Practice 28 (Margaret S. Herrman ed., Blackwell 2006).
FAMILY COURT REVIEW, Vol. 45 No. 1, January 2007 117–119 
© 2007 Association of Family and Conciliation Courts

Read on for more reviews

The Blackwell Handbook of Mediation:
Bridging Theory, Research and Practice


Margaret Herrman, Nancy Hollett and Jerry Gale have done an admirable job of sorting through what we know and what we don't know about the mediation of interpersonal disputes. They have built a comprehensive model integrating dozens of pertinent variables that seeks to link antecedent conditions, mediation practice and short and long-term outcomes. Peggy then assembled contributions from many of the stars in the mediation field who examine the comprehensive model through the lens of framing and frame reflection, narrative, facework, interpersonal power, emotion, social identity and organizational management. The Handbook of Mediation, while not prescriptive, offers a “platform for further theory testing” that will surely play an important part in helping to determine what makes mediators and mediations program effective.
Lawrence Susskind, MIT-Harvard 
Dispute Resolution Journal


The Blackwell Handbook of Mediation is an enormously important contribution to research, scholarship, and reflective practice. In a field marked by a vast range of intellectual traditions and arenas of practice, Margaret Herrman and her contributions have given us an indispensable resource and guide-erudite, balanced, and respectful of dissenting perspectives.
Kenneth Kressel, Professor of Psychology, Rutgers University

Peggy Herrman's book is a solid presentation of the best current thinking and research in our changing field. She has done brilliantly what good mediations do: present the different perspectives, define the issues, and ask, “where do we go from here?”
Betty McManus, National Conflict Resolution Center

If there was a prize for bravery in the field of dispute resolution, I would nominate Peggy Herrman. First she constructs a model of mediation that integrates a variety of theoretical concepts, research findings and mediation styles. Next she invites a significant number of mediation heavy-weights to respond critically to this effort. The result is a fascinating collection of papers that stands somewhere between a Rorschach (ink blot) test and a piñata: a Rorschach test because each chapter tells us as it does about Herrman's model; and a piñata because it is difficult even for mediators to avoid taking a few whacks at a standing target to see if it can be broken apart.  

Herrman's model originated in a quest to answer one of the most hotly debated questions in the field: “What makes for effective mediation?” Of course, the answers to that question depend very much on the questioner's approach to mediation. For example, a self-described transformative mediator sets forth different goals and assumes a somewhat different stance toward disputants than a so-called problem-solving mediator. Herrman's model is meant to apply across differences in mediator style, types of conflict, and philosophy. It is an enormously ambitious effort; an attempt to develop a framework for an empirically grounded approach to understanding how mediation works.

Drawing from an almost encyclopedia survey of the mediation literature. Herrman attempts to identify and operationally define all the major factors that affect the mediation process: antecedent conditions, the process used, short- and long-term outcomes. Each factor is broken down into its primary constituent components, which are then divided into discreet variables. For example, the consideration of antecedent conditions cities the characteristics of disputants and mediators, the disputant's beliefs and attitudes, the characteristics of the dispute and the institutional context as the major factors. Consideration of disputant beliefs and attitudes includes the literature on the “willingness to participate,” “perceptions of voluntariness,” expectations and feelings about mediation, and motivation to “resolve.” The intent is to stimulate a discussion informed by an appreciation of the complexity of conflict, to go beyond the self-promoting clichés of the field and to think rigorously and precisely about what actually happens in mediation and negotiation.

Some authors take the Herrman model on its own terms and analyze its ability to address particular aspects of mediation. These chapters are structures around implicit questions about the model. For example, Tricia Jones and Daniel Shapiro, respectively, address how well the model can handle the role of emotion in mediation or the significance of power. Craig McEwen, Janet Walker and Sherrill Hayes address how mediation is affected by the institutional and policy context within which it occurs.  

Each of these chapters contributes to a fuller understanding of the complexity of the mediation process. Others seem to use Herrman's model as a stepping-stone to explore interesting matters without really drawing implications of mediation did not fit well with the terms of discourse dictated by the model. Mediators know quite well that the framing of an issue crucially determines how it is discussed. For example, Neal Katz's consideration of artistry in mediation uses a different sort of vocabulary than the language of variables and antecedents. While he refers to Herrman's model, only small portions of his discussion can be integrated into the language of the model. The chapters in this category take one outside the boundaries of the model and introduce considerations not easily located among the factors identified in the model (For example, the chapters on framing (by Barbara Gray) and difficult conflicts (by Morton Deutsch).  

Still other chapters try to restructure the discussion by challenging the basic conception of the model itself. Sandra Schruijer and Leopold Vangen write insightfully on the complex relevance of social identities and social and relational context to the mediation process. Not surprisingly, John Winslade and Gerald Monk offer the most direct challenge to the model, questioning its basic assumptions, disagreeing with the essentialism ally defining key terms, and critiquing the belief that the complex and dynamic mediation process can be understood as the effects of atomistically understood components interacting in a linear fashion. Ironically, they essentialize rather than engage Herrman's model, leaving us to imagine what a real dialog between the two perspectives might be.

Fortunately Kevin Avruch brilliantly examines Herrman's model in light of the other contributions, giving us a glimpse of how such a conversation might be structured. He leaves us with an observation that returns us to the very issues that stimulated this volume to begin with: “what remains most deeply embedded and problematic” in Herrman's model “has to do…with the nature of mediation itself, particularly the role, function, or tasks of the mediator…”

Model building is a tricky business; David Raup once wrote. “All models are wrong. The question is, are they usefully wrong or distractingly wrong? Judging from the quality of the contributions to the Handbook, Herrman's model is a smashing success.
Howard Gadin
Dispute Resolution Journal
Nov 2006 - Jan 2007

During the last thirty years, as mediation has become an ever-more common feature of civil justice systems and community life, mediation theory has raced to keep up with mediation practice.  

Three problems confound development. First, the subtlety of cause and effect in the mediation room make it difficult to observe, much less classify and measure, the behaviors that researchers sought to understand. Second, the complexity of the social and psychological systems that come into play in the mediation room requires a highly sophisticated systems-oriented lens through which to observe and analyze those behaviors and the contexts in which they occur. Third, the effects of culture, class, gender, race, ethnicity, and a host of other variables influence not only the behaviors of the parties and the mediator, but also the perspectives of the researchers. Combine these three obstacles with the ever-changing forms of mediation practice, and one has reason to question whether theory will ever catch up with practice. However, with the publication of Peggy Herrman's “The Blackwell Handbook of Mediation: Bridging Theory, Research, and Practice,” the mediation field has acquired new tools for closing the gap.  

Published as part of an international series called “Blackwell Handbooks in Management,” Herrman's book is in excellent company. Herrman's training is in sociology, but she is also an experienced mediator and facilitator , and she has assembled for this book some of the best and brightest in the fields of mediation study and practice. Herrman and her colleagues at the Mediator Skills Project wrote the lead essay in the book, “Mediation from Beginning to End: A Testable Model,,” which proposes a comprehensive structure for understanding mediation. The book's other contributors respond to the lead essay, and occasionally to each other's contributions, with 19 original essays that are exceptionally thoughtful and well written on such topics as child custody mediation, workplace disputes, restorative justice, and the emotional dimensions of mediation. Researchers and policymakers will find Herrman's book essential and practitioners and trainers will find it useful as well. It provides not only valuable insight about mediation practice but also a much-needed analytical framework that embraces complexity, subtlety, and the rich diversity of backgrounds that we bring to the practice of mediation.
Reviewed by David A. Hoffman, Esq.
Boston Law Collaborative, LLC


Peggy maintains a private practice in Athens, GA, serving north Georgia, while also traveling across North America and internationally to help clients, conduct training and for speaking engagements. North American and international coaching clients have access by phone or Skype. Peggy can be reached at, by phone (706.207.1490), or use the “contact” form to make an appointment for an initial chat. Half hour initial inquiries are free (a $75 value). Thanks for coming to “ Conflict Solved: Doc Peg is IN.” Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIN for daily reflections and hip-pocket tips.



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