Hope and Mediation/Martin Rosenfeld,JD

Posted on September 26, 2016


The following appeared in the Boston Globe, on September 23, 2016:

WE OFTEN HEAR politicians expressing “hope” for the resolution of various disputes, even though it sounds trite and anodyne. But new research suggests that it does make a difference to one’s opponents. When informed that Palestinians had become more hopeful about peace in response to a specific peace proposal, Jewish-Israelis themselves became more hopeful and, as a result, more supportive of the proposal. This was particularly the case when Palestinian support for the proposal itself was low, such that expressions of hope from Palestinians counteracted their low support in affecting the attitudes of Jewish-Israelis.

Cohen-Chen, S. et al., “Hope Comes in Many Forms: Out-Group Expressions of Hope Override Low Support and Promote Reconciliation in Conflicts,” Social Psychological and Personality Science (forthcoming).

Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist. He can be reached at kevin.lewis.ideas@gmail.com.

When there is an ongoing mediation, besides the search for Win-Win, something else is happening that is critically important. The idea of being hopeful that a resolution “may” or “will” emerge energizes the two parties. Since, the parties themselves may not be convinced that hope underlies their mediation, it is up to the mediator to express this to the two parties. The advice I received early in my training was this: “Be hard on the issues and soft on the parties”. Let the parties know how far they have come. Point out the resolution that seems with their grasp. Validate the thought that the communication may not be easy but it is bearing fruit. As President Clinton, a native of Hope, Arkansas, said when he received the Democratic nomination for President: “I still believe in hope.” Indeed, we all should so believe.

Mediate don’t litigate.