Mediation tip: Impact of Face to Face meetings at Mediation
In a recent pre-lit mediation, defendant accepted responsibility for what happened, and wanted to meet with & apologize to plaintiff (and counsel). Plaintiff's counsel expressed cynicism about motives and credibility. Although I pointed out the opportunity to assess credibility as a benefit of the meeting, plus the defendant's "need" to have this meeting to apologize and discuss, plaintiff would not budge. The defendant was saddened and disappointed, which feelings pervaded the remainder of the mediation, and the case did not settle (yet). While I do not normally conduct an initial "joint session" (where the lawyers mainly "argue" their case and heighten everyone's tensions), I believe that the mediation IS at least in significant part, about working through everyone's feelings and emotions; sometimes it is the plaintiff who needs the apology, or to vent; sometimes the defendant needs to give an apology; People are often afraid of "difficult conversations" and avoid them like the plague. However when people, together, work through the difficulty and fear to have an authentic dialogue about each side's perceptions and feelings, it can be very empowering and healing for both sides.