What does each person at the table want? Why do they want it? The mediator tries as best he can to get an understanding, not just of the parties’ stated positions, but of the interests that underlie those positions. The better his understanding of the interests, the more he can help a person move towards a resolution that meets those interests.
And the more it enables the mediator to apply his own creativity towards finding solutions that may not otherwise have occurred to the parties themselves.
At the beginning of a mediation, from my first “good morning” and throughout the process, the mediator is working to build a relationship with each of the parties, their counsel, and with managers, agents and any other personal representatives who may be present. This helps establish mediators credibility, and assures that he or she is viewed as neutral, unbiased and committed to the people, the process and to the shared goal of working towards an acceptable resolution.
If the mediator has been able to get an understanding of a party’s interests and establish a connection upon which to build relationships, it helps make this all important task much more manageable. And, hopefully, the relationship that’s formed during the mediation will help a party accept that a settlement requires compromise, that there is value to be gained in the finality of resolution itself, and that thereby the party can respond constructively to the contours of an acceptable outcome.
In the final analysis, for the mediation of almost any dispute but especially those which involve artists, entertainers, celebrities and their work, relationship-building is a critical element for success. It’s born of curiosity and a genuine desire to understand the dispute from each party’s vantage point. It helps gain the trust of everyone in the mediation – not only of the parties, but of counsel and other personal representatives as well. This in turn allows to be more effective at keeping everyone at the table and the mediation process on track. And last and most importantly, it helps to keep everyone focused on the task at hand – the collaborative effort of mediator, the parties and their counsel, working together towards achieving a resolution that, as much as possible, meets the parties’ interests and addresses their concerns.