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Mediators setting the stage - What are your thoughts?

How should mediators set the stage for positive engagement at mediation?

Please provide your thoughts/comments below.

Thank you Harold Coleman of AAA Mediation.org for this week's question.

Comments (6)

Well before the mediation session take charge of the process. Ensure that the parties (1) understand each other, (2) have the information they need to develop confident negotiating positions and (3) believe that the mediator is fully prepared. Surprise is the enemy of compromise, so do what you can to make sure that everyone, including the mediator, is informed before the session. That preparation also builds trust in the mediator, who will have to keep the process moving at the mediation session and sometimes beyond.


Beginning with the pre-mediation conference call, seek a commitment from all to take all measures possible to maximize the chances for a successful mediation outcome. Identify each representative each side plans to bring to the mediation session and confirm with the other side that the choice is the most appropriate one. Identify documents to be exchanged before the mediation session and obtain assurances that they will be seasonably exchanged. On every occasion when the parties' representatives are acting cooperatively, reinforce that good behavior with a heartfelt "thank-you." The session begins with the mediator welcoming the parties and thanking them not only for their attendance but for their cooperation in agreeing to the session's time and locale. Bring snacks to be shared. Smile.

Richard Lutringer:

Develop a trusting relationship with each party and counsel by informal conversations days prior to the first session.
In the mediator’s introduction at the beginning of the session use positive encouraging words to prime the parties to act collaboratively, rather than have an antagonistic relationship.


Even in a difficult case, it is important for the mediator to stay positive. Telling the parties at the opening statement that you see opportunities for compromise helps. It also helpful to remind parties that their counsel are there to help them negotiate a solution, and that they should not mistake the lawyers' encouragement of compromise signifies any unwillingness to represent them zealously in court or arbitration if they must.

Tim Gibbons:

After receiving the parties' position statements, I make one-on-one calls as necessary to counsel to discuss questions raised in my mind about issues, particularly those I can predict to be sticking points. I learn a lot in these calls, and it often gets the attorneys thinking in advance about issues on which they may need to prepare their clients.

Preparation is often key for mediation success. The parties need to have the information they need to make informed settlement decisions. And the mediator should be up to speed on the basics of the conflict.
The parties also need confidence in the mediator, so the pre-conference call is very important too.

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