Mediation can be an exhausting process, mentally, physically, and emotionally. In fact, an article in the Journal of Dispute Resolution, written by a Magistrate Judge, emphasizes this ‘phenomenon’ in further detail. Calling it ‘spiritual fatigue,’ the Judge shares that staying centered emotionally and behaviorally in mediation — for the mediator and both parties — can lower the level of psychic strain that the negotiation process can impose on all involved and can serve as a significant source of renewable professional energy.
A few key areas to consider to remain emotionally and mentally robust during the mediation:
1. Denial – Even the most energetic of us will tire eventually. According to this article, one source of fatigue is the fear of admitting that it exists. Accept your physical state and continue to place yourself in a position of being a “force” for good.
2. Repetition of Process – Boredom. We’ve all experienced it. Our mental and physical energy might no longer be stimulated by the challenges of mastering new mediation skills as the novelty wears off and boredom sets in. The key here is to stay active and alert.
3. The Psychic Strain of Being at the Center of the Vortex – Being the center of attention for an extended period of time can be exhausting. The relentless and intense psychic demands ‘holding court’ involve can take a physical and emotional toll. The article suggests that we stop seeing ourselves at the center of the process, but rather as a part of it.
4. Infection by the Parties’ Fatigue – Fatigue can be contagious. If one of the parties is losing steam, it can affect the other participants. Remember to take short mental and physical breaks.
5. Exaggerated Expectations of the Parties to the Process – Temper your expectations. You might be artificially sapping your own energy by expecting too much of others involved in the mediation process. Be realistic.
6. Exaggerated Expectations of Ourselves – Again, be realistic. It is human nature to sometimes exaggerate our ability, our contribution, and our responsibility; but to remain at the top of your game during the mediation, you must conserve energy by appropriately recognizing your part and the inability to control the outcome.
7. Outside Sources of Sustaining Energy – Actively solicit the participation of the other lawyers, parties, and mediator in discussions about how to structure the settlement, what steps to take at important junctures in the proceedings, and during settlement negotiations.
A mediation can be a very fulfilling and effective process, if used correctly.