Separate Hearings

German managers are trained to hold separate hearings with the conflict parties. The initial goal is to establish the root cause of the problem and to guage the intensity of the conflict. The German approach avoids a hearing involving both parties. Student mediators in German schools are taught the same method.

A hearing with both conflict parties present almost always leads to an escalation of tension. Emotions run high. Accusations and counter-accusations are made, often without any basis in fact. The mediator can quickly lose control of the situation.

That kind of a hearing only giesst Öl ins Feuer, literally pours oil into the fire; provoke another person; to push a difference of opinions into an open conflict.

The German term Herrschaftswissen, roughly translated as domination or control via better information, in the sense of knowledge is power, has a negative connotation. It signifies power of one over another based on the former‘s access to critical information.

German mediators strive to be better informed of all the details concerning a conflict than the conflict parties themselves. This not only prevents manipulation, it is the basis for resolving the problem.


The German State of Thüringen (Thuringia) analyzed aspects of its judicial system. It recommended that magistrates (judges) hold separate hearings with the parties in conflict. Separate hearings are considered to be “besonders hilfreich” – especially helpful.

Many attorneys were quoted praising the advantages of separate hearings: “loose, relaxed atmosphere; room to discuss matters other than the conflict itself; each side feels they are taken seriiously; an opportunity to present one’s viewpoint without the other party attacking it; creates a constructive communication climate.”

One of the magistrates underscored the value of holding separate hearings: “For me the most important part of the mediation is the hearing with each party separately. Points are made which are very important to the respective conflict party, points which helped me to better understand the nature of the conflict and which led us to a breakthrough.”

Mediation Process

On the website of the German National Association of Mediation one reads:

“The mediator directs the mediation process in angemessener (appropriate, reasonable, adequate) way and considering the unique aspects of the case, including an imbalance of power between the conflict parties, the rule of law, as well as any particular needs and wishes of the two parties, including the need to resolve the conflict in a timely manner.”

The conflict parties may modify the mediation process in line with current rules or otherwise, in agreement with the moderator. The mediator may conduct separate hearings with the conflict parties if she or he deems this to be helpful.”


vermitteln. To reach agreement among enemies; intervene in a conflict, argument; enable communication between opposing parties; to bring about, to make happen; to bring those in disagreement together; to facilitate; to make a match, marriage, friendship; to help someone achieve a goal.

Diktat. Latin dictatum, from dictare. Dictation; to dictate, determine; a written command, order; to force something on another person, from the outside; dictator.

schlichten. Old High German slihten, to even out, smoothen; as a neutral party help resolve a problem, end a fight; to make a wooden or metal surface smooth, shiny; to make leather soft, pliable.

Holzhammermethode. Literally wooden hammer method; to try to accomplish something with force. Using a wooden hammer is a metaphor in Germany for taking an unsophisticated, rough, impatient approach to a sensitive matter.


Anhörung. Hearing. A discussion open to the public in which subject area experts are asked their opinion; statements given by witnesses; a questioning of participants and or witnesses in a conflict.

Ursache. Cause; from the beginning, start, origin; the reason for a court proceeding; something which causes an event, a development; the immediate and actual cause; to investigate, identify, establish the cause; the law of cause and effect.

eindämmen. Containment; to control the flow of water via a dam; to influence or steer the direction of something; to limit the spread of something, wildfire, costs, crime; to limit another person‘s influence.

heraufbeschwören. To bring about a negative event or development; thoughtless provocation of something negative, destructive; to cause a danger, a conflict.

Verzögerte Anhörung. A delayed hearing. German mediators reserve the right to call a hearing with both conflict parties present, but at a later stage in the resolution process.

Verleumdung. To bear false witness against another person; to damage someone‘s honor by making an untrue accusation; to knowingly state a falsity about the other conflict party; lie, defamation.

Willing to argue

The dictionary defines streitbar as follows: [constantly] prepared, having the will to, argue, with someone over something, to critically and activelydispute something; to fight for or about something, to take a stand for something or someone, a fighter; [older] prepared for battle; warrior-like, brave.

The adjective streitbar has a very positive connotation in the German language. In recalling famous persons one often reads the sentence Er war streitbar – he was streitbar.

Politicians are ever more frequently characterized as being streitbar. Streitbar does not mean that one seeks out conflicts in a negative sense. Rather, it means to stand up for ones beliefs, and not avoid serious confrontations.