Language and Mediation

Suzanne Ghais

Program Manager at CDR Associates, Boulder, Colorado

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Q: How important is language in what you do for your clients?

A: Very. A lot of facilitation and mediation is about language.... I just look at the language that they use and I pick it up and I try to use it. It's kind of like learning a dialect.

Q: What about the word conflict? Do you use that term?

A: Only if the participants use it first. One reason that we are CDR and not the Center for Dispute Resolution anymore is because people say, "Oh! I don't want to hire a firm for dispute resolution." A lot of people don't want to admit that they have conflict. And there are also different understandings of the term. In the field of conflict resolution, we explain that term very broadly as meaning any situation of opposing goals, whether explicit or tacit. That's a very broad definition, much broader than the definition of everyday language. Or it may mean violent warfare or it may mean sort of open shouting and open arguing and battling verbally. So, I'm very sparing with how I use that word. But if the parties say, "Yeah, we have conflict", then yeah, I use it. But it doesn't matter what we call it you know what I mean. It's the situation, we just work with what we got.