March 2021 Decision-Making in Mediations – A Book Review

Mediator and InstantMediations.com Advisor Fran Brochstein, whose mediation experience spans decades, provides mediation tips to mediators and parties engaged in dispute resolution. She is based in Marble Falls, Texas and can mediate online with parties from anywhere. Contact her through her site Familylaw4u.com at Fran@Familylaw4u.com. If you have any suggestions for future columns, please feel free to contact Fran.

The recent Texas freezing weather and electrical outages gave me the opportunity the re-read some books.  Edward De Bono’s book – Six Thinking Hats, was one of those books. In it, the author encourages the reader to use the concept of “6 hats” when making decisions and exploring new ideas.

Mr. De Bono breaks down decision-making by having the decision maker look at each situation from a different perspective. He takes complex decision-making and breaks it down into smaller pieces so that people can think more simply and make the decision-making process more enjoyable and effective.

You can try a version of his “6 hats” idea when doing your next mediation, or use it on your children the next time they must make a major decision:

1. White hat – Looks at just facts, figures and information gathering. It is neutral and objective. It is the first point of view to consider because it addresses what you know and what you don’t know. It considers what additional information you need to make a final decision.

2. Red hat – Looks at each person’s emotions, ego, feelings and fears. Using this point of view, intuition and hunches are considered.

3. Black hat – Looks at the situation as the “devil’s advocate”. Each negative outcome is considered. A person’s worst-case scenario is discussed. This point of view is cautious and careful.

4. Yellow hat – Looks at the situation in the best and positive light. Considers all the good things that could occur. It is the optimistic point of view.

5. Green hat – Looks at the situation through new ideas and creative solutions. It is the creative point of view. It considers all possible alternatives that might exist.  

6. Blue hat – Looks at the situation through an overview point of view by considering all the items brought out above. The point of view is usually the person in control of the overall process – in our example, it would be the mediator’s role. At the end of all discussion, this point of view asks for the outcome on how to proceed in the future – it focuses on the big picture while taking into account all the other 5 views listed above.

Decision-making between mediation parties is a big topic. As a mediator, you should get your hands on as many resources as possible to develop your skills on helping mediation participants analyze their options and process their choices in the clearest ways possible. Mr. De Bono’s book provides one framework for helping get parties to think through a decision from different perspective in ways they would not have considered.

I hope sharing this book was informative. If you have other resources that you’ve read that goes deep into the psychology of decision-making, please share it. Lots of information is available on the internet and on YouTube.