I am pleased to announced that The Project to Train Intercultural Mediators for a Multicultural Europe (“The TIME Project”) extensively relied on my work on the psychology of mediation and the IDR Cycle to develop materials for the training of mediators.
The TIME Project brought together universities, VET centers, organizations active in migrant integration, and public authorities from seven different countries, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Poland and Greece to help train mediators.
An excerpt from one of the Project’s excellent self-study modules is presented below. This section focuses on the IDR Cycle. Another section discusses my work on the psychology of mediation more generally. These materials were developed for the TIME project by Olympic Training and Consulting, Ltd.
Self-Study Course for Trainers of Intercultural Mediators,
Module 3: Psychological Issues in Intercultural Mediation,
Section 3, IDR Cycle
TIME Project Partnership, 2016
It has been observed that many conflicts go through a certain cycle of psychological inflation, deflation and realistic resolution (IDR). It is basically caused by the tendency to take conflict personally and consider the outcome of the mediation as a reflection of who one is – of one’s identity.
Understanding the IDR cycle helps mediators tailor their interventions to the parties’ needs and their responsiveness depending on the stage they are currently at.
So what happens at each stage of the cycle? Put very simply, Bader explains the following:
The Inflation/Overconfidence Stage
At the outset of the mediation process parties are generally overconfident or “inflated”. A reason for that is that interpersonal conflict is often experienced as threatening the value and even the existence of the self. As a defense to the anxiety caused, parties tend to self-inflate, i.e. to reassure themselves that they will manage successfully. Adrenal surges caused by perceived threat also contribute to the initial inflation.
During this phase, parties usually have non-realistic expectations, overestimating the strength of their case, seeming to be unwilling to face adverse facts or denying their own vulnerability. They do not take into account the agenda of the other side, and all this leads to the next stage.
When each party begins to realize that the other side exists as an independent agent who envisages a different outcome and proposes a different solution, disappointment and deflation settle in. During this phase parties may feel insulted by the offer or the position of the other side, they start to feel less certain that they will achieve their desired result, and often blame others because things are not going as they “should”.
At this tender phase mediators should exhibit sincere respect towards their clients, as this will soothe the feelings of insult and deflation. At the same time mediators need to remind parties that the decision making process has to be kept as objective as possible. Overreacting to the negative feelings caused by the conflict impedes the resolution process.
When the parties manage to develop a sense of self-and-other they also succeed in settling their dispute. They abandon the expectation to achieve only their own ideal result and are eager to accept a practical and realistic solution. Often this coincides with recovering from the sense of injured pride and disappointment. They do no longer view the outcome of mediation as a reflection of who they are.
As Bader points out, this phase is not reached through manipulation or dictation. Rather, the conflict itself, coupled with the process of mediation, implicitly or explicitly drives the parties in this direction.
Note: The following references also discuss the IDR cycle.
Elizabeth E. Bader (Winter 2016) The Psychology and Neurobiology of Mediation, 17(2) Cardozo J. of Confl. Resol. 363 ; (summary here)
Elizabeth E. Bader (2010) The Psychology of Mediation: Issues of Self and Identity and the IDR Cycle, 10 Pepp. Disp. Resol. L. J. 183 https://law.pepperdine.edu/dispute-resolution-law-journal/issues/volume-ten/bader-article.pdf
Elizabeth E. Bader, (2011) Self, Identity and the IDR Cycle, Understanding the Deeper Meaning of “Face,” in Mediation, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/aps.295/abstract
Elizabeth Bader (2010). The Psychology of Mediation, Part I: The Mediator’s Issues of Self and Identity. http://www.mediate.com/articles/baderE2.cfm
Elizabeth Bader (2010) The Psychology of Mediation (II): The IDR Cycle, a New Model for Understanding Mediation. http://www.mediate.com/articles/baderE3.cfm