When Talk Works Profiles of Mediators



When mediator Jimmy Carter talks, world leaders listen. When violence erupts in a public housing project, Linda Colburn mediates for peace. And when attorney William Hobgood intervenes to resolve a labor dispute, he saves workers and management the economic and emotional costs of litigation.

When Talk Works goes behind the scenes with accomplished mediators to show how these professionals resolve conflicts in our families, businesses, communities, and between nations. In twelve personal, interview-based profiles in the style of The New Yorker, Deborah M. Kolb and her associates present an inside view of mediators at work: who they are and what techniques they use to achieve successful results in all areas of our society where conflicts arise — from business, law and public policy to public education, the environment, and labor relations. Each of the mediators speaks candidly about his or her work — its challenges, rewards, and failures. Their compelling stories illustrate the many ways to “make talk work,” offering insights to mediators currently working in the field, those seeking to enter the profession, and others who find that mediation skills are critical to success in their careers.


“Insightful and highly readable. The best examination of what successful mediators actually do. Anyone who wants to settle a dispute will learn a lot from these profiles.”

–Roger Fisher, co-author of Getting to Yes

“A must read for anyone contemplating the practice of alternative dispute resolution as a mediator or using the services of a mediator. It strips away the popular cant about mediation by letting the reader climb into the heads of practitioners to understand what really goes on in this little-understood field. But mostly it’s a book about enduring belief. A belief that no matter what the conflict, there exists in all of us a stronger desire for consensus.”

–Wallace Warfield, George Mason University and former president, Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution (SPIDR)

“All mediators, and anyone else who practices or is interested in alternative dispute resolution will be interested in this book.”

–Mary P. Rowe, ombudsperson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

About the Author

Deborah M. Kolb is a former executive director of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and professor of management at the Simmons College Graduate School of Management. Her previous books include The Mediators (1983) and Hidden Conflict in Organizations (1992). She consults in the areas of conflict management and gender relations to a variety of multi-national firms and organizations.

PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

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Soft copy vs. hard copy

You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You will have one week to download your materials from when you receive the email. You are then only authorized to use, print, or share the materials as many times as the number of copies you purchase. The TNRC charges for use of this simulation on a per-participant basis. Therefore, you must purchase a separate copy of this simulation for each person who will be participating, regardless of the number of roles in the simulation. You will only receive a link to one electronic file, which includes all general instructions, confidential instructions, and any teaching notes for the simulation. You should separate out the instructions before distributing to participants.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, a PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package for the simulation is available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. All Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

To order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Quantity.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required.

If you are ordering hard copies, the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Quantity.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.