The Closer

A Mediation Newsletter November 2014

Silence Can Be Golden
by James Rainwater

As a whole, generally those who enter the legal profession and work regularly with clients tend to be of the chatty variety. This concept of the gift of gab applies equally to mediators. We have a strong urge to frequently proffer our opinion and advice - both solicited and unsolicited. Mediators are social by nature and seek to solve problems. Yet, is constant comment a good and productive action?

While giving the right input at the right time, the mediator can propel the conference forward or, perhaps, place the conversation back on track. However, when the wrong thing is said at the wrong time, the results can be devastating. The French sculptor, Auguste Rodin, who created the world-renowned masterpiece The Thinker, once said: "Patience is also a form of action."

When voices are clashing or a party is vehemently venting, it is not necessary for the mediator to address every outburst or reply to each bit of invective speech. Knowing when to remain quiet can be as beneficial as knowing when to speak. Most experienced mediators have honed this technique down to a science. These mediators know the value of conversational gaps and how to take full advantage of them.

Knowledge and experience are great qualities for any mediator to possess. Patience, though, is a trait not commonly mentioned in our profession. Some clients may perceive a lack of verbal expression to be a sign of disinterest or absence of knowledge. However, like a great work of art, it takes time to craft something that will endure the scrutiny of all parties.

As the saying in the art world goes, 'everyone is a critic,' the mediation conference can be just as brutal. Clients often want instant results and possess little patience for the process. The mediator can set the tone for calm reflection, and the attorneys can bolster this by soothing their clients. By joining together in peaceful interaction, opposing counsel and the mediator will provide an example to the parties that patience can produce resolution.

Rainwater Law