The Key to a Good Mediation

Litigation is a drag. It’s expensive and emotional for clients. It wears you down, beats you up, and leaves you dissatisfied no matter the outcome. It’s no surprise that clients desperately want litigation to come to an end and the best route to resolution is often, mediation. 

 I’ve attended many failed mediations throughout my career as a litigator and dispute resolution attorney. The commonality among most of the failures is the inability of the mediator to determine what was most important to my client. Put another way, the mediator didn’t listen. 

One of the great advantages of mediation is that it gives the client the opportunity to share their story with another, impartial person. It’s the chance for the client to download all they have experienced within the case and whatever led up to it. To vent and even cry about the very stressful role that litigation has played in their lives. 

Mediation, if successful, may be the only time a client has the ability to share their story. There will be no trial if the parties resolve the dispute so it’s crucial that the client has the ability to say whatever they need to say to assist the process. It’s imperative that the mediator listen to the story. She may learn that the resolution does not boil down to finances, or an apology, but something else entirely. The mediator must understand what is important to the client if she is to assist in crafting a resolution. 

Too often, I attend mediations and the mediator spends the entire time talking. Why? How does it get the parties any closer to a settlement if the mediator is taking up the most airtime? The neutral facilitator must be an expert at listening. She must put her own story aside and understand what the clients need to move closer.

That’s the key and while it sounds simple, it isn’t. You absolutely can get better at it though. Start by listening to a friend or partner for minutes at a time without interruption. Allow the person to talk for as long as they want to and then summarize their story in less than a minute. Boil it down to the most important points they made using their cues: facial expressions, tone, inflection, pauses, etc. Don’t just hear what they say, really listen. Practice this activity regularly and you will get better.

Good listening skills can make you a better lawyer, mediator, and partner. Clients want a lawyer that will listen. Lawyers need a mediator that listens. If you’re looking for a mediator that knows how to listen and practices it often, contact me. I want to help.