I once heard an experienced mediator comment: “I care, but I don’t care that much.” I never quite grasped his meaning. Was he suggesting that a mediation session is entirely in the hands of the parties, and if they can’t reach an agreement within a specific period of time, tough luck? Or did he feel that, despite how close the parties got to an agreement, if an impasse arose, he’d be damned if he’d fall on his sword to help them reach the finish line? Not always, but in many mediations, I feel like I’m one of the Flying Wallendas, balanced on a high wire trying to accomplish two things:
- Help the parties reach the far end of the wire (settling the case); and
- Not fall off the tightrope (i.e. keeping a party from leaving the session).