Offering middle ground
Question: At the center of the labor dispute between NFL owners and professional football players is George Cohen, a federal mediator known for his work in helping Major League Soccer come to a resolution over its own labor battles. Mediators have no power or authority to compel either side to do anything, but they still have the capability to influence the outcome in nuanced ways. What must Cohen do to bring the more uncompromising members of both sides together to make a deal?
George Cohen, unfortunately, will not see or speak to the most recalcitrant partisans on either side, but only with their selected representatives. He has the ability to shuttle between the two sides when they are not in the same room and thus perhaps to reduce the impact of inflammatory rhetoric. He has the ability to discern the relative importance of the various items in dispute to each side and thus to learn where compromise is possible.
At some point, close to the the end, he may be able to suggest a middle ground that neither side is willing to make as an offer, but that both sides may be willing to accept simply because it comes from a perceived neutral, the rejection of which will create greater problems than would acceptance. A good mediator does not need the power to impose a settlement to affect one.