There are many reasons why an effective mediator must have patience

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First, the mediation process has a dynamic that experienced mediators know should not be rushed.

It takes time for parties to explain how the dispute arose; it takes time for parties to respond to each other’s account; it takes time for parties to formulate offers; to consider offers; to make counter-offers; and so on. It resembles nothing so much as a stately dance. Attempting to rush the parties through the process almost always leads to delays down the track that are longer than the time saved by rushing the parties.

The second reason that Patience is important is that experienced mediators know that, often, it can be hours before first offers are exchanged.

The third reason that effectives mediators are patient is that they know that they know very little about the parties and their dispute–usually less than anyone else in the room.

Because of this, parties may not behave as the mediator might expect.

The fourth and perhaps most important reason that an effective mediator must be patient comes towards the end of the mediation–when, often, the parties have been negotiating diligently for hours but remain a long way apart.

Why is Patience especially important here? It’s because, at this point, the mediation process itself usually imposes enormous pressure on the parties to settle.

A mediator who concludes prematurely that the matter will not settle, or accepts a party’s gloomy conclusion that this is the case, does not allow time for the pressure to take effect. It is precisely when one or both parties say that settlement is impossible that the experienced mediator exudes Optimism, continues to be Persistent, and counsels Patience.

Robert Angyal SC is an effective mediator.