Using the Conflict Styles Model in Mediation

This model is one that I often share with clients when I am mediating. I find it helpful to talk through with clients to help them to identify the approach (or approaches) they are taking to the current conflict.

How to use the Conflict Styles Model in Mediation

I print up the model and have it in my mediators kit or draw it on one of the blank pieces of paper I use during mediation to write my notes on.

During the pre-mediation I talk through the model with the client explaining that in mediation we are seeking ideally to reach a point where the parties can reach a collaborative agreement.

By that I mean an agreement where both of them get what they need in terms of their working relationship and in solving the problems that have led to the dispute or conflict they are experiencing.


What conflict style are you using?

Clients generally find it quite easy to identify the conflict style that they are using.  The original developers of the model used assertiveness and cooperative as the two dimensions of the model but sometimes people misunderstand the meaning of those words. 

I find that using the term focus (what are you paying attention to) and needs is helpful with all clients regardless of their educational background.

Often people want to think that they are being cooperative but if they can’t tell me what the other person wants or needs then they are not!

It might mean that they have not asked or that the other person doesn’t feel that it is safe to tell them.

Once we have looked at the style that they are using at the moment in the current conflict I work with them to prepare for the mediation based on that.

How to prepare clients for mediation

As a mediator the more a client is prepared for mediation the more likely it is that the process will flow smoothly and the clients will be able to negotiate a collaborative agreement.

In workplace mediation the current trend seems to be pre-mediation meeting in the morning and mediation session in the afternoon. That is not my preferred approach as it doesn’t give the clients much time to reflect on the discussion during the pre-mediation session or to consult with their advisors. I do contract work for workplace mediation so I don’t control that aspect of the process.

In family law mediations I always leave time between pre-mediation to give clients time to get legal advice and discuss with family members.

My objective is that they understand their options and the cost of alternatives to reaching an agreement. That way they are realistic about what they want and need and are able to better hear and understand what the other person wants and needs.

What people want

I find that what people ask for is generally pretty reasonable.

In terms of their interpersonal relationship they want to be treated with respect. That means not being spoken to sarcastically or in a way that makes them feel bad. It means paying attention to their needs and wishes and not imposing your values on them and being willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and not make negative assumptions without asking them for clarification.

Easy things to do when you are not in conflict but quite hard if you are feeling negatively about someone.

By using the Conflict Styles model and other models we can have a conversation about these types of things without blame or recriminations.

It is a normal thing to either accommodate or avoid if there is a power imbalance but not being willing to express or ask for what you need is self-defeating behaviour and has no place in the mediation room. If the power imbalance is so great that expressing what you need form the other party could result in harm mediation should not occur and another resolution process should be used.

Likewise a person who has a lot of power in the relationship either due to their role in the organisation or their personal power may feel that they can make the other person do what they want. Sometimes people have been taught this style of positional bargaining and don’t even think about the negative downside of forcing an agreement on someone else. With a bit of education about the benefits of collaboration  most people are willing to at least listen to what the other person wants and needs.

I find that this sets the foundation for a productive mediation process.

Are you interested in becoming a professional mediator?

Mediation Institute is a recognised mediator accreditation body. We offer a flexible and accessible online course for NMAS Mediator Accreditation and also the CHC81115 – Graduate Diploma of Family Dispute Resolution for those interested in Family Law Mediation.

What models do you use in your mediation?

If you are already a professional mediator I’d be very happy to host a blog post from you on the Mediation Institute Website about any models or diagrams that you use in mediation with clients. Send me an email or call to discuss.


Mediators Resume

Do you have a Mediators Resume?

This will be of interest for any of our members who are looking for a job, looking for private work as a mediator or wanting to list on one of our directories.

A Resume is a summary of your skills, qualifications, accreditations and achievements and provides a quick way for someone who is considering working with you to see what your skills are.

Job Hunting

Having an attractive CV is an important part of standing out if you are searching for a job. Yes it should be about your skills, qualifications and passion for your work but the reality is that the initial stage of any recruitment process is culling the applications for most employers. A scrappy, poorly formatted CV might be all it takes for you to end up in the reject pile.

Mediation Work

One thing that still surprises me is the number of mediators who don’t have a Mediators Resume. The resume should include your qualifications, accreditations, contact information and showcase either your experience as a mediator or if you don’t have much experience yet your background experience and qualifications.

Don’t leave home without it! You never know when you will be speaking with someone who knows someone who needs help with dispute resolution. If you have handy your one page resume it is a lot more effective than handing over a business card, especially if it has a bit of personality and looks great.

Resume Making Tools


I’ve just found an interesting tool that is easy to use and has a free version and pretty low cost paid version. That’s what prompted this post along with conversations with mediators who don’t have a mediators CV.

The tool is called Novoresume – Here is the link.

We are not associated with them in any way and I just found it this morning. I’ve created a resume. Using the free version I made something that I think it looks pretty good. What do you think? Joanne’s Resume (this link will download it so look where ever downloads go on the browser you use.)

Microsoft Office

The office suite has some great free templates available. If you don’t have the latest version of office get in touch as we can provide our member and students with free access to the latest version of the Microsoft tools through our Office 365 Subscription.

What other tools do you love?

If you use a different tool that you recommend let us know and we’ll update this post.


Remember to keep an eye on our Jobs Archive. You can get to it from a link on the menu or click here – Job Archive

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Is your mediation service the best thing since sliced bread?

A recent blog post from Natalie Armstrong-Motin reminds us that it doesn’t matter how good your product of service is if people don’t know about it you’ll fail.  

Running a successful business requires skills such as the ability to market and sell your services. Without those skills you will not prosper.

Marketing doesn’t necessarily mean paying for advertising or behaving in a way that is uncomfortable for you. There are many ways to market your services but you do have to pick some of them and do something. Just having a great service isn’t going to be enough.

Come along to our Practice Development Mastermind webinar tonight. Book in on Eventbright. It’s free for any Australian dispute resolution professional


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