Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mediator Challenge - Do Something New

As we start 2014 filled with resolutions for the new year, let me encourage you to add one more!  When you get stuck - try something new.

I was on a panel on Breaking Impasse at the ABA Mediation Institute in Nashville and my message to the group was that when things get stuck, you need to change what you are doing.  Treat the concept of being "stuck" merely as feedback that whatever is going on is not working. It may not be anything that you are or are not doing.  It often is the situation itself or the participants themselves. 

For me, mediation is about helping participants make choices. What do they want to do with their dispute, conflict, claim, etc.? Do they want to resolve it and what might that be or not and proceed on to whatever process will be next. In litigated cases that I often mediate, the choice is clear to either settle now or perhaps settle later or go to hearing.

When things get stuck it's often because people are not yet clear on what they want or need to do. They think settlement and hearing at the same time. Our job as mediators is to get folks thinking in both the same ways they have in the past and inviting them to think differently. To do this you need to do different things as a mediator. 

At the ABA conference I suggested that you tell stories to get folks thinking. Stories both take your mind off your own problem and give you a frame for consideration. I like the one about the boy walking along the beach throwing starfish back into the ocean - its on the front page of my website -  There are many others.

So, try a story next time. Get out your Easy Button or magic mediator wand!  Don't rehash old topics, use the stuckness as both a reason and your license to be creative, to tell that joke you just heard, to take a walk outside, to get some lunch, to . . .

The list goes on and on.  In 2014, try something new!