It was agreed that a joint meeting would take place in one party’s room. Party B, a couple, had never met the lawyer for Party A who had been dealing with the issue on behalf of clients. It was important that both could put names to faces. The mediator introduced the meeting with a few carefully chosen words (likely a set piece I’m guessing, but important nonetheless). It was brief, with the lawyer going over to shake each of the couple’s hands. All that was required was a handshake and a few thoughtful words. On reflection, the significance of this meeting can’t be underestimated – the parties are no longer ‘faceless’ to each other; the effect of ‘humanising’ the process for each side is important as they may already have formed views about each other – rightly or wrongly. Those few words to the couple could be significant later in the process.
Whilst this mediation wasn’t exactly ‘text book’ (for example, the mediator knew counsel and solicitors on both sides which enabled the mediator to skip some of the introductory stages), the skills employed – focusing on the process, setting the parties (particularly the two older individuals on one side) at their ease, painting a picture of how the day might unfold, assuring them of the confidentiality of the process, emphasising the ‘opportunity’ that today presented for exploring ‘options’ in a safe environment, testing reality when appropriate, hearing from the parties that they had a will to settle this, harnessing the parties co-operative instincts – resulted in an outcome satisfactory to both parties.
It may just have been another, reasonably straightforward mediation for the mediator but, for me it reinforced the power of the process and gave me a determination to want to do more in this field and to spread the word about what can be, if you let it, a truly enlightening process!
By Frances McAulay, Director, Square Peg Development