This study identifies three models of rationality that mediators employ in interpreting conflict situations and formulating the most sensible and appropriate way to proceed. These models, critical discussion, bargaining, and therapy articulate what mediators presume about the nature of conflict and the framework of activity required to manage the conflict. The models were developed through a close analysis of a corpus of forty‐one mediation sessions. The analysis shows that the substance, direction, and outcome of mediation is shaped by the framework of activity implemented by the mediator. This can be seen by the way in which arguments are deflected and discouraged in bargaining and therapy models. These models suggest that mediation competence can be understood in terms of two issues: which model to implement when and how best to implement any model in a stream of discourse.