Did you hear that President Obama had a Super Bowl party? And not just any party, but a bipartisan party. President Obama invited elected officials from both political parties. What a great idea to get folks together in a less pressured atmosphere, to make connections and build relationships. It certainly can't hurt and who knows, it might help down the road.
Does any of this sound familiar to you as mediator? Have you ever tried to get folks in a mediation to meet over a cup of coffee, lunch or a late afternoon snack? I have and find that when you get people in the same room who are in dispute, they can be tense, they revert to various "posturing" and "positioning" behaviors that are not always constructive. However, get together in the break room over coffee or that mid afternoon cookie and often the interaction is very different. This is particularly true with people who know each other (usually the attorneys) and such interactions, even for small moments, can provide useful information to you as mediator and create opportunities.
I bring muffins and sometimes fruit to my morning mediations and usually cookies in the afternoon for this very reason. I try to create personal interactions that are not specifically directed at resolving or settling the dispute. I create personal interactions to create connections between the mediation participants, and in so doing, it sometimes opens a door in the negotiation that had been closed.
So, next mediation - have a Super Bowl (Dispute) Party!