Fortunately, I have a home office. So for my clients, it is business as usual when it comes to phone calls, e-mails, and meetings. And as I think about the skills needed to raise and train a puppy, it occurs to me that many of them translate to my professional life as well.
For the first few days, finding Mocha’s collar, her leash, my shoes, treats, etc., when she needed to go out seemed oddly baffling. I did not yet have designated places for each of these items that made it easy to grab them and go. Now I do, and we have settled into a routine.
How does this relate to mediation? Preparation is key. Whether selecting a mediator, scheduling a mediation, or planning and executing your negotiation strategy, it is important to set your goals and consider your alternatives. Make you sure you know that everything you need is readily accessible, both physically and metaphorically. Because as the old saying goes, “to fail to prepare is to prepare to fail”.
Young puppies have an attention span of just 20-30 seconds, yet they are constantly learning. The question I must ask myself is what I am conveying to Mocha in those moments when I do not think she is paying attention.
The same is true in mediation. Everything you say or do has an impact, be it a small gesture such as a smile in a hallway, a minor concession regarding the time or location of the mediation, or a large move in dollar amounts. Be aware of what you are conveying even in those moments that you perceive as less than substantive negotiations. Intentionally or not, you may still be sending a message.
Sometimes, Mocha is just too excited to listen. At other times, she is too exhausted, or too distracted. And sometimes, when the timing is just right, she amazes me with her willingness and her ability to absorb new information.
When thinking about mediation, consider whether the timing is right. Is it so late in the case that the parties are suffering from litigation fatigue? Are there other things going on in the case – or in your or your client’s personal or professional life – that are causing a distraction? If the timing is right, progress in negotiations often readily follows. If it is not, make sure to let your mediator know why. Because in contrast to training a puppy, timing is within your control, and your mediator can assist you in resolving your case even if the timing is imperfect.