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Role Reversal

July 22, 2014

I had a mediation recently in which a disputant was so “myopic” (he could only see his side of the situation) and was so entrenched in his own view of the way the compromise should go (the other person should compromise further, not him) that I didn’t know if we would ever get anywhere with the negotiation.

After a short break (which I needed in order to manage my own frustration in the moment), I had the idea to ask him, which I did on my return: “If you were the other person, what would you say needs to be done to get the case settled?”

As a result, I got him to tell me – as if he were the other person – what he himself needed to do to make the deal.

And then he did it.

In another mediation some time ago in which I was similarly stymied, I thought to ask the disputant to change roles with me – she would be the mediator and I would be her.

Then I asked for “a mediator’s proposal.”

Sure enough, after a thoughtful pause, she told me exactly what she herself needed to do to make the settlement.

Sometimes, this “role reversal” will get people to see beyond themselves, or to see themselves as if they were a third person looking in.

And sometimes, this simple change in perspective helps them to move from their stuck positions in negotiation, and helps them to get to peace.


David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. For further information about him, please visit his business website at .


From → Mediation

One Comment
  1. Thanks for sharing your experience. I will try this with family.

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