It seems a long time ago since I bemoaned the ending of my Italian holiday. Today, four months later, the cheque arrived! I hadn’t had the chance to meet with anyone from Trenitalia to tell them how I felt, but I was very grateful for the existence of their mediation service which enabled me to receive compensation for the extra tickets I’d had to buy.
It struck me that although four months have passed, they hadn’t been silent months. I received emails and letters, at times duplicating the information – sometimes in Italian – which all gave the impression that Something Was Happening.
That’s one of the difficulties in a day of mediation where shuttle mediation – the mediator seeing the parties separately – is used. It leaves one party alone, wondering what’s happening in the other room, perhaps feeling confused/irritated and/or trapped. A mediator is mindful of a number of issues around timing (a) how can each party be assured they are receiving equal time? (b) how to address the fact that one party, particularly if a litigant in person, is likely to absorb more of the mediator’s time? (c) what’s the real cut-off time for the mediation? The answers depend on a number of factors. A good starting point is to manage the parties’ expectations from the beginning and forewarn them there may be periods of time when they are waiting for longer than they would like. See whether there are any relevant information exchanges which could take place to give the parties fresh documents to consider. If one party looks like it is embarking on a discussion with others in the room (experts/supporters/lawyers), the mediator, or usefully the co-mediator, can take the opportunity to briefly make contact with the party in the other room. People interpret silence differently but where it’s open to interpretation, a party may not opt for the positive version. Communication however brief, between the rooms breaks the silence and reassures the party that’s waiting that their time is valuable and that Something Is Happening.