Part of a mediator’s role is to help the parties critically evaluate their options.  Although there are many techniques for allowing parties to critically evaluate their situation and position, three of the simplest methods only require a person to know the 3 W’s.  Why, What if, and What Else?  These three questions can help mediators, attorneys and business executives in identifying and arriving at alternative solutions.

According to Jeremy Kourdi in Business Strategy: A Guide to Taking Your Business Forward, by asking, “Why?”, “What Else?,” and “What if?”, it’s useful to:

  • Challenge the thinking of others, even when they appear to be on firm ground.
  • Identify and challenge the assumptions or rationale that underpin decisions.
  • Get people to pinpoint the exact reasons for their views.
  • Challenge and provoke — look for radical change.
  • Play devil’s advocate and go for the opposite of current practice.
  • Avoid acceptance of the status quo.

As a mediator, all three of these questions can assist the parties to understand their issues.  Why are you so convinced that you are going to win?  What else is the other side going to do?  What if you lose?  Used throughout the mediation, these questions can help the parties to understand the consequences of their decisions.  Often, the question about “what if you lose?” can invoke some major emotional blocks.  Many times, people might answer back, “I won’t lose.”  Helping them to understand that there is a possibility, even if it is remote, that they can lose, can help that party start to evaluate the risks and consequences of their decision now.

It is important to note that sometimes “why” might make a person defensive.  If you sense that the person may be defensive, you might try asking “what are the reasons….”  It has essentially the same meaning as “why” without the connotation of negativity that may come with why.

Source: (sources of insight)