When Things Go Wrong in a Mediation Session/Martin Rosenfeld

Posted on August 5, 2013


I attended a program in education in which all graduates traditionally entered the teaching field. Imagine our collective surprise when the Dean spoke to us on one occasion about the possibility of failing in our chosen profession. Was that cruel? We did not think so. We needed to hear that some people fail and then re-assess what they will be doing in their professional career.
At mediate.com, Mediator and Attorney, Oran Kaufman, has written a piece on “More Conflict Resolution Tips For Divorcing couples”. One tip is relevant to many: “Change Your Expectations” when things do not go, in negotiation, as you had envisioned. Mediation is not always a smooth experience. On occasions you can discuss matters with a couple for hours and “ring up” the agreements on various issues. At other times, 30 minutes seems more grueling than a trip for root canal treatment. How one deals with these challenges will go a long way in determining how successful the mediation experience will be.
Parties who get along quite well do disagree at times. It is certainly predictable to assume that a divorcing couple, in mediation, will have differences of opinion. It is always a wise idea to hear the other point of view and consider it. Disagree? Explain why this is so. Search for alternative solutions and “hang in” there. If the quest for Win-Win is truly desired, there will be issues that require special attention and additional time. Do not feel that the mediation attempt is going up in smoke every time there is some “push back”. One of the advantages of mediation is that it allows for a new model for communication. Use your ability to try to persuade rather than for trying to indict. In my experience, mediations fail not when people disagree but when people play the “blame game”. If you are invested in getting to an amicable resolution, the odds are greatly stacked in your favor. And keep in mind what the alternative to mediation will inevitably be. Mediate don’t litigate.