May 18, 2024

Mediation EI Enhancer #5:  Talking Less and Listening More 

Emotional intelligence is one of the most underrated and overlooked characteristics of a good mediator.  Negotiations are built on trust and emotional intelligence is the foundation of trust.  Yet so many mediators neglect emotional intelligence.  In this 5-part series, we’ll be exploring ways EI can enhance mediation. 

The fifth “EI Enhancer” in mediation (read #1, read #2, read #3, or read #4) is listening more than talking, which is easier said than heard.   

Seeking to understand, empathizing, and listening to others are all important emotional intelligence tools that are often sidelined at mediations.  How many mediations have you been at where the mediator comes in and basically regurgitates arguments from the other side and dumps on your case and then goes into the other room and presumably does the same thing?  This eat and regurgitate model often goes on for several hours at the beginning of the day.  It might work for baby birds, but this approach leaves most people sick to their stomach and soured towards settlement.  

The best mediators are often the ones who ask a lot of questions, seek to understand, empathize, and then work towards a solution.  Unfortunately, this emotional intelligence skillset can be hard to find.  A mediator is a conciliator—someone who brings parties together and finds the common ground.  This is best achieved through careful questions, validation, and suggested solutions.  

A mediator who is advocating for a deal is just an overpriced lawyer.  Parties to a mediation already have a high-priced lawyer who is telling them the strengths and weaknesses of the case and what it is worth.  They don’t need another lawyer with another expensive opinion.  They need a negotiator to help them get a deal done.  Too many mediators spend too much time trying to advocate, persuade, and convince instead of listening, asking questions, and trying to direct the participants towards a settlement solution.  

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