Time Traveling in Mediation

As summer draws to a close and school children return to their classrooms, it's all too easy for us to look wistfully at the summer that was, rather than become invigorated and eager to face the future.  For us, the summer of 2017 meant participating in a glorious wedding weekend, dubbed #CampSchau, in which my youngest son married his long-time wonderful girlfriend.  It also meant saying a sad farewell to our granddaughter, whose parents got appealing jobs and moved out of State this summer.  

In mediation, our challenge is to re-focus the litigants from that moment in time when they were wronged or injured (or sued by the other with false or hurtful claims) to the present and (potentially improved) future, in a single day.  This takes work, determination and perhaps a little imagination.  In trial, the parties do fix their gaze on a single event or series of events that lead to the lawsuit.  Their mission is to prove that one party wronged the other and needs to pay to rectify that wrong.  However, in mediation, if we are to succeed, we need to essentially turn the disputants gaze from past to present, from lacking control, to self-determination and, from counting their losses to seeing the potential gains--which include certainty, finality and often financial compensation or at least savings of litigation costs.

For me, I am forcing myself to envision an autumn where my little granddaughter and I can walk through falling leaves which we might never have seen had she stayed in Southern California.  I am also anticipating celebrating the holidays with my new daughter-in-law's family this year, not as a guest, but as a member of a new clan which revels in happiness, joy and love for one another and for my son, the newest member of their crew.

Transitions are not easy, and ending a long suffering dispute in a single day takes courage and will.  Yet, if we can find that kernel of hope, the future can be more appealing than the past.

Jan SchauComment