How Mediators can Assist Disputants in Increasing their Happiness
If we are successful in mediating disputes, we often witness the end not only of a protracted conflict, but sometimes also a longstanding relationship, like a marriage or an employment or business association or friendship. Most of us have experienced endings of this kind to be sad, or at best with "mixed emotions". One study, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, re-framed this and called it "poignancy". A hospice nurse famously reflected that among the top regrets of the dying, her patients reported that they most regret "working too much" and "losing touch" with close friends.
How does this relate to mediation? The research suggests that if we can help those who are approaching these sad endings to imagine that they will soon be coming to an end, that exercise may offer the disputants ways to better appreciate the here and now and to approach the future without regret. Too, we can help them to seize that very moment to extract greater well-being for their lives. In short, we can assist them in extracting some positivity from the poignancy without the stress of the lawsuit or the fear of real endings. Carpe diem.