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Impasse: A deadlock in mediation


During a mediation , impasse occurs when neither party is willing to compromise any further on an issue. When parties reach impasse they're likely to regard it as the end of the negotiations.

In mediation , the impasse means and includes a hurdle , barrier , bottleneck , hindrance , deadlock or standoff.

Why does Impasse occurs ? 

Impasse may be due to various reasons , it may be due to an overt conflict between the parties . It can be aslo used as a tactic to put pressure on the opposite party. There may aslo be valid or legitimate reasons for the impasse.

Kinds of Impasse:- 

There are three types of impasse , namely 

  1. Emotional Impasse 
  2. Substantive Impasse
  3. Procedural Impasse 

Emotional Impasse : When the party is emotional struck on some point and didn't want to over come with it. This is caused by factors like personal animosity, mistrust , false pride , arrogance , ego, vengeance or fear of losing face . 

Substantive Impasse : This impasse can be  easily recognised as it occurs when the monetary interest of the party is not being met . This can be caused by the factors like lack of knowledge of facts and /or law , limited resources , despite willingness to settle , incompetence of the parties, interference by third parties who instigate the parties not to settle dispute or the obstruct the settlement for extraneous reasons, standing on principles , ignoring the realities , adamant attitude of the parties.

Procedural Impasse :- This occurs , when either of the party or both feel that the process for the mediation itself is being conducted in an unfair or inappropriate manner . This can be caused by factors like lack of authority to negotiate or to settle , power imbalance between the parties mistrust of the mediation.

Stages when Impasse may arise

Impasse can arise at any stage of the mediation process namely introduction , opening statement , joint session, separate session and closing.

Techniques to cut down Impasse

 The phase of impasse is not unusual its expected . So it's become the responsibility of the mediation to use his skill and try to break impasse with suitable approaches , which are as follows .

  • Reality Testing  : Reality Testing is often done in the  separate session by asking effective questions , discussing the  strength and weakness of the respective case of the parties , without breach of confidentiality and /or considering  the consequence of any favour to reach an agreement BATNA /WATNA / MLATNA  
  • Brain Storming : It is a technique used to generate option for agreement . There are 2 stages to the brain storming process :- Creating options and Evaluating options.
  • Focussing on the underlying interest of the parties. 
  • Acknowleding and complementing parties for their time and efforts they have already made. 
  • Role reversals by asking party to place himself /herself in the position of the other party and try to understand the perception and feelings of the other party. 
  • Changing the topic to come back later .
  • Using of hypothetical situation on questions.     
  • Ascertaining from the parties the real reason  behind the  impasse and seeking  their suggestion to break the impasse.
  • Holding hope


  • Introduction
  • Kinds of Impasse
  • Techniques to cut down Impasse

BY : Riya Sehgal

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