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Formulation Sequences in Mediation: How Paraphrasing Works in Dispute Resolution

500 Hall of Languages

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Considered one of the fundamental skills of active listening, paraphrasing (also called the "speaker-listener technique") is supposed to demonstrate understanding, give the other person a chance to reflect on what s/he is saying, and slow down the urge of adversaries to argue back or shift focus away from that person’s concerns. Yet some say the speaker-listener technique is overrated or can be overused. How does paraphrasing really work? Conversation analytic research shows how formulations (one speaker putting into words either the essence or the implication of what has been said) operate across a range of institutional interactions. In a collection of instances from the early, storytelling phase of a real-life mediation session, the mediator's formulations further sequences of talk that preserve and transform elements of the participants' stated perspectives. Along the way, through formulations the mediator establishes and maintains neutrality and helps "prepare" the perspectives of the disputing parties for possible resolution. Examination of actual formulation sequences invites consideration

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