Mediation is a logical process. With the help of the mediator, parties need to analyse their problem, work out what really matters to them and test solutions.
But emotions are at play too. Relationships have been upset, apparent certainties we relied on disturbed – including maybe expected receipt of money which the dispute has denied. Maybe our self-worth too. Parties may arrive in different states of mind: sometimes feeling bullish, sometimes depressed, sometimes determined, sometimes unsettled and many other states between. Some of these states can be helpful to them in the mediation, others not, but the key thing is to be aware of them, and for the mediator to pick up on them too. Even if they are not helpful in the mediation process, there may be states which the logical side says it would be good to get rid.
So, for instance if you are depressed and worried about litigation, why should you not take into account that one outcome of mediation will be to relieve that, even if you think you stand a chance of getting a better result in court after continuing that depression and worry for another 18 months? It is up to a party to decide their own priorities, after talking it through. Maybe the aim of coming into a more relaxed state is overriding. Certainly, after a successful mediation people report feeling better, as if a weight has been lifted.
I get the New Scientist every week and have done for the last 10 years. You might wonder what the connection is but bear with me. I am not a scientist so struggle with some of the more technical stuff there, say on gravitational waves or quantum. I originally got it to help my children – both of whom have followed science-based paths – not least so I could understand better what they were up to in their studies. They have left home for some time now, but I have carried on with the subscription as there is so much fascinating stuff to read there, much of it on the neurological side which also helps me understand human processing better as a mediator.
In the issue for 3rd November writer Michael Marshall had a piece called ‘Brian Tingles’ referring to a condition called ASMR. I did a double take as a mediator with ASMR!! But ASMR is not variant on ‘Albert Square Mediation (Alternative Dispute) Resolution’. ASMR stands for ‘autonomous sensory meridian response’. It occurs when a certain experience just makes us feel blissful and relaxed. The science community has carried out social experiments and brain scans but is in doubt as to where it comes from. Some think it is about being ‘in the flow’, others that is a kind of ‘frisson’. There is dispute also as to whether it is an evolutionary trait but people certainly feel more social connection after ASMR. It can relieve pain too. In addition, a researcher called Guilia Poerio found that ‘heart rates fall by 3.1 beats per minute during ASMR, which was similar to the effects of music-induced relaxation for people with cardiovascular disease’.
ASMR: Albert Square Mediation resolution! Ok so you may not feel in a blissful state after mediating as you might do from meditating for instance, but I bet if a scientific study was carried out on parties a few days before a mediation and a few days after, it would show that they were feeling more relaxed and able to move on and their heart rates will had gone down a bit.
(1) Original image by Anthony Wooding from his forthcoming book with David Ladbrook ‘Management: The Good, The Bad and The Indefensible’
Civil and commercial mediator, mentor, trainer, author and consultant in long established firm of solicitors.