In so many aspects of our lives in the busy and stressful times it is too easy to get caught up in the moment and find ourselves so lost and frustrated that a relatively simple task or procedure appears beyond our grasp. Very often returning to “Basics,” reminding ourselves of our reason for starting the process and some retraining in the fundamentals, can get us back on track.
As a mediator in a complex or even relatively simple mediation, a looming or apparent “impasse” can in fact be “all about me.” The mediator caught up in the flow and temporarily losing detachment that is fundamental to effective neutral mediation may have to step back and reassess the situation. Sometimes some “alone time” (that brief time when each party might believe the mediator is with the other when in fact he is standing in a hall trying to figure out where to go next) is for reflection upon what has been “heard” or perhaps not listened to or appreciated – what have I observed on the subconscious level – good/poor relationships between a party and his or her counsel; the reaction of one party to the comment of another – this by everyone in the room except, hopefully, the mediator. Re-framing; re-examination, approaching the issue from different angles… Adapting as if it is the mediator, not the parties, suffering in the power imbalance. Engaging in a group session in a conversation with a party is not meant so much to talk and take more time than is necessary, but to provide the parties observing the conversations between the mediator and opponent, perhaps for the first time, to listen to the positions, interests and perspective of the opposition.
On more than one occasion, when recapping the events of a long day with the parties in caucus or in joint session it is a party who will recognize a key point or obstacle causing impasse and provide the impetus to move on. Ironically, it is rare when those instances occur, that the advantages of an effective process provided by a well-schooled and committed mediator are recognized.