When Talk Works: Profiles of Mediators

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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.

When Talk Works: Profiles of Mediators Attributes

Author: Deborah M. Kolb and Associates
Publisher: San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1994