The Tool of Silence/Martin Rosenfeld,JD

Posted on April 7, 2019

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Phyllis Polack, a prolific writer on mediation, recently penned “Silence is Golden” at https://www.mediate.com/articles/pollack-silence-golden.cfm. The gist of this piece is that effective mediation requires the gift of listening. However, at times, a mediator may choose to resort to the use of silence. Pausing in silence, can be a powerful tool. As an example, think of the words of FDR that “the only thing we have to fear [PAUSE} is fear itself.” Why is silence so important? At times, it may be needed to allow the parties to digest what has already been said. In addition, saying nothing can make the parties unnerved. They may well choose to fill the void with important thoughts or opinions. This could well be what is needed to break an impasse that has occurred. Or it may simply indicate that the other party has been heard. It was Will Rogers, the humorist, who said: “Never miss a good chance to shut up”. In a mediation, it is not always what you say. It can also be what you do not say and when you choose not to say it. Mediate don’t litigate.