Define “Successful”

I recently attended the annual meeting of the International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution (“CPR”). Though I have been a member of CPR for about three years, this was my first annual meeting. I doubt I will ever miss another one. It was wonderful, and not only because the meeting was held in Charleston, South Carolina!

One of the mediation topics presented was an interactive discussion of the criteria important to a “successful” mediation. The audience (approximately 150 experienced neutrals and advocates from all across the United States and several foreign countries) could vote with the use of a hand-held clicker in response to questions posed by the presenter, and the results instantly tabulated and displayed. It was a lot of fun, and very insightful.

When asked which of the following were most important to a successful mediation (quality of the mediator, relationship of the parties, timing, type of dispute, attitude of counsel, and “other”), only two criteria received a substantial number of votes. By a significant margin, “quality of the mediator” was deemed most significant, followed by “attitude of counsel”.

I am fairly certain that most of the mediators in the audience probably voted for “attitude of counsel”, and most of the advocates in the audience voted for “quality of the mediator”, but I can’t prove it! But I believe everyone in attendance would agree that as a general proposition, experience, preparation, patience, and persistence matter. As a mediator, I try to bring these qualities to every mediation.