It's All About Showing Up

Some appreciative readers of this blog have nevertheless asked: "Is mediation really so easy? You make it sound as if things get resolved just like that (finger-snap). It can't be so simple in real life."

Well, the answer is: yes and no.

Does mediation always succeed? Certainly not. What is the biggest obstacle? Perhaps the answer will surprise you, but it's simply the act of showing up for the mediation.

Consider that most conflict participants don't even consider mediation. And of those who do, most turn it down. Even when one party is willing to try, the other party isn't. (To be fair, maybe they made the right decision as not every situation lends itself to mediation.)

So when both parties do show up, this is already, in a sense, a self-selected group. These are parties who, no matter how upset they may be, want to possibly...maybe...just perhaps...see what might be done to resolve the dispute.

And when they get into the actual mediation and have a chance to share their grievances, this too is a big step forward. It can't be underestimated how cathartic it is for disputants to have the opportunity to express their views and feelings -- and be heard directly by the other party.

So let's review: if both parties show up, you are perhaps halfway toward success. And if both parties get to speak and be heard, that is another 25%. So now you're 75% of the way to a potential resolution and the truth is that the mediator hasn't yet done much of anything yet. As a mediator, I point that out proudly.

It is the last 25% where some real thinking and digesting usually takes place between the parties with the help of the mediator -- and where the visible progress is made, often (but again, not always) leading to a resolution.

So as Woody Allen once said, "90% of success in life is showing up."

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Joshua de Sola Mendes