With a hint of self-mockery, a well-known US mediator declared himself “the master of bracketology.” For those in doubt, you won’t find “bracketology” in the Oxford English Dictionary, but the art and science of deploying brackets in the context of the mediation process is an “ology” worthy of study.
One might first consider why brackets are helpful in a mediation. A scenario familiar to all mediators is “offer alienation”: offers are made grudgingly in small increments, and a substantial gap between the parties remains. Every offer appears to entrench each side’s view that the other is either not prepared to put up “real money” or is utterly unrealistic.
When the gap remains large and each offer drives resentment, a walk-out by one party becomes an increasing likelihood. Mediators strive to get parties to table reasonable offers, but aren’t always successful, and while much has been written on countering “positional bargaining”, for many users of mediation it’s the negotiation methodology they most trust, and one which has no doubt been used to good effect in other aspects of business. Persuading them to take a different path in dispute resolution can prove unproductive.