The two elderly women have known each other for years. They had once been good friends. Their daughters had been good friends.
But now they are here in the mediation room today to argue about threats and harsh words spoken between their two families in the halls of the building where they both live. And they are speaking plenty of harsh words at this mediation today.
Then something surprising happens. In the midst of pouring out their complaints, one woman mentions that she can smell the other woman's cooking and that "it smells pretty good." Really?? "So she's a good cook?" I ask. And she says, "Yes."
Consider the wondrous nature of this small, offhand comment. Even as this lady is fighting her former friend, she has just complimented her cooking! And an astute mediator can do only one thing: point it out. And so I do.
"You're a good cook?" I ask, turning to the other woman. "Well..." she smiles with a certain pride. And at that point, the mediation starts to take a slight but important turn for the better.
Lesson: Small acts of goodwill can make big differences, and a good mediator can listen for them and point them out.