What community mediation can teach attorneys about the mediation process, part 1 of 3

| October 4, 2012 | 2 Comments
Using empathy to effectively mediate your case.

Using empathy to effectively mediate your case.

As an attorney, I’ve been trained to be effective in depositions and in the Courtroom. I have learned how to spot a liar or someone who is tap dancing on the truth. Yet, it wasn’t until I became a student of the mediation process – specifically community, elder, and guardianship mediation – that I really got the perspective needed to truly understand what litigants face and what motivates other attorneys and other parties in reaching settlement agreements. I have this perspective from learning about, conducting, and teaching community mediation. So how is it that the community mediation model provides such perspective?

Here are the first three reasons:

1. Community mediators know how to listen for the motivation and not position

The way community mediators are trained focusses on listening for the emotions which drive the conversation. While the participants want to focus on position, the mediators will focus on the emotions and needs which drive the positions. They don’t get distracted by red-herrings because they know how to stay calm and listen for what’s important to the participants. This skill is important in mediation and in litigation because it provides a broader view of the facts and the people involved. In a way, this is reading between the lines and then bringing that information to the surface, which allows for a productive discussion. While it guides the process, it allows the participants to be involved and engaged in designing their own solution to their own problem. Who wouldn’t want that?

2. Community mediators know how to rely on an effective process to get the job done

The community mediation model is based on an effective process which facilitates communication between the parties. This process is designed to reduce tension and increase understanding. In fact, the process is so effective that it has allowed me to help resolve cases in which none of the parties believed that they were going to settle, when they arrived for mediation. By guiding the tone of the discussion, and not the content, the community mediation model helps craft a process in which all participants are vested in the process & outcome. This builds rapport and allows everyone to work together toward the unified goal of getting the case settled. When everyone buys into the process, they are ultimately working toward the same goal.

3. Community mediators know how to deal with anger

I teach a 3 hour seminar on dealing with anger in mediation. In my experience as a mediator, and someone who teaches about this topic, I find that dealing with anger can help significantly increase the chances of settlement. If we don’t ignore anger and help reduce or dissolve it, we can help the participants focus on what matters to them as opposed to how they can hurt the other side. In fact, I have had 3 cases where the parties had threatened each other physically, prior to the mediation, and were able to work through their anger and effectively settle their case, during mediation. If those parties could do it, I have hope that all cases can settle. I’m convinced that dealing with anger has allowed me to settle many more cases that what I would have been able to do without knowing how to deal with anger.

There are 3 other aspects to what community mediation can teach attorneys about the mediation process. I will be sharing those with you in my up coming posts. You can subscribe to this blog, in order to receive automatic updates.

Here are some related posts:

Do you really know what you are feeling in mediation?

Five signs you have not properly prepared for mediation.

Is walking out the best mediation or negotiation strategy?


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Category: Conflict Resolution, Mediate, Mediation, Mediation Blog, Mediation Courses, Mediation Training, Mediator, Negotiation, Settlement, Shahrad Milanfar, Uncategorized, What's New

Comments (2)

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  1. Anthony Castelli says:

    I’d really like to see a case study . What you say sounds good. But my question is show me how you used your general principles to resolve a car accident claim

  2. CaMediation says:

    Hi Anthony, Thanks for your comment.

    This approach works because it allows the parties and attorneys to come to their own conclusion that settlement is the best option. Think of it this way, would you be more or less likely to settle, if I were to tell you that your case wasn’t very strong or that you were going to lose. Now, how much more open minded would you be, if, after you told me about the strengths of your case, I asked that you pretend to be the opposing lawyer and tell me how you would attack your own case. In my experience asking both sides to explore a different point of view is much more persuasive than telling them that they are wrong. This works in the context of personal injury mediation, as well as other types of mediation.

    I would be delighted to speak with you about these concepts because I truly believe in them and have seen them work many times. Perhaps we can chat one of these days on Google+.


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