Monday, May 11, 2009

Waiting is . . .

"Waiting is" - These are the words of Michael Valentine Smith. A human raised by Martins in Robert Heinlien's classic science fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land. For Michael, "waiting" was a completed act. I believe the same can be true for mediators.

In a recent workers' compensation mediation, the claimant had returned to a new job earning a wage greater than in the employment where injured. The discussion ranged over medical issues and impairment ratings as well as strong feelings by the injured worker about treatment by the company post injury. We talked, we negotiated, I listened and waited.

The talk focused on settlement and after several offers and counter offers the participants had shared very different ideas about resolving the claim. The numbers were close; however, not that close and while settlement was possible, it did not seem likely to the participants. (This they shared in private caucus.) And still we talked and considered and continued with the mediation process.

We spent many hours together that day and there were several opportunities for me as mediator to say "let's stop;" however, I waited for the mediation process to do its work. Eventually, the injured worker decided that the settlement offer was enough, that it was time to move on both literally, i.e., the length of time of the mediation and the potential time at hearing and, figuratively, it was time to let the hard feelings go.

Thus, the process works if you give it time. If you continue to hold the space for the participants to do the hard work of considering their dispute and seeking to resolve it. The mediation process is - like waiting is.