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Civility in Mediation

April 12, 2016  | 

{3:12 minutes to read} After watching the umpteenth presidential debate, you can imagine why I started to think about civility in personal and professional settings.

For most of us, civility in personal situations is automatic. We’re polite to strangers, say good morning, hold open a door and say you’re fine even if you’re not.

On the other hand, for those with whom we’re most comfortable, sometimes that automatic default to civility is lost. And for those with whom we’re in conflict, some of us may even constantly snipe at each other like those on the stage in the 2016 Presidential Debates.

So, do mediation clients have to be civil to each other? Not necessarily, but here are some reasons why I think they should.

You Want to be Heard

When you have a legitimate gripe against someone who acted badly and that person acknowledged that he or she acted badly, fight the urge to bring it up repeatedly. Constantly bringing it up in different contexts in dripping sarcasm will cause the other person eventually to tune you out. Not only will they not hear your continued complaints regarding their bad actions, but they won’t hear you on anything else, either.

You Need to Hear the Other Person

If you are so busy thinking about how and when you can rail against the other person and give the most nasty and biting remark, are you really listening to him or her? And if you’re not listening, you are not really mediating. Mediation requires both parties to hear and understand the other so that resolutions may be discussed that will meet both of your interests.

You Might Shoot Yourself in the Foot

When you repeatedly knock the other person about something, even if it’s legitimate and acknowledged, it tends to get diminishing returns. You run the risk that the other person, who may have started out feeling sorry and guilty, will eventually not feel quite as bad about what they did. Guilt does tend to lead someone to be more generous in terms of a settlement, but an unrelenting harangue can definitely chip away at someone’s guilt and generosity.
If you’re not ready to accept an apology and move on, so be it. You don’t have to do that. But it would be in your best interests to be civil to the other person. You don’t have to like him or her; you don’t have to act like it never happened. But you also don’t have to continually raise it with nasty and sarcastic reminders.

Clare Piro Attorney and Mediator

Attorney & Mediator
500 Mamaroneck Avenue | Suite 320
Harrison, NY 10528
Tel: 914.946.0848

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