Too often, people act quickly on negative first impressions about the likelihood of settling and do not give the parties and the process time. Without patience, they throw in the towel and end up with ensuing litigation without really knowing if it was avoidable.
It’s good to recognize that there’s usually a tipping point between being reserved towards settlement and being intentional about it, and it takes patience for minds to get there. Mediation manages this by being gradually structured. It takes time on purpose.
Attorneys are well served by preparing clients for incremental movement. They can explain that this pace provides the time one or both need to digest information and adjust expectations which are part of the flow of progress. To their benefit, parties’ choices become clearer and rationale becomes more balanced against reservations. Not surprisingly, this actually increases the likelihood of settling.
I recently mediated with two very anxious parties. The defendant could barely let me finish a sentence. He wanted to spend as little time as possible mediating. The plaintiff was very emotional and equally in a hurry to get through the process – settlement or no. What was obvious from my vantage point but not from theirs was that both absolutely wanted to settle and both absolutely needed time to acclimate along the way to get there.
Adjusting their pace and expectations about the process got them to and past the tipping point. They became intent on reaching resolution, and succeeded. In fact, their terms were more satisfactory than they’d anticipated. They also arrived at a very amicable place, able to discuss the finalizing details in person. Patience is what saved the day.