Senator Mitchell Was Right to Resign As Mediator

I think it was the right decision by Senator Mitchell to step down as mediator. The appointment of Mitchell without prior consultation of the parties especially where the parties seem to have a legitimate concern, he and his law firm had previously represented public utilities, will make gaining the trust of the mediator nearly impossible. You cannot “force” a mediation with a particular mediator where a good number of the parties object.

While the parties now seem enthused about returning to the table perhaps because they shared a common goal that was accomplished by them together, (a good start!), a good facilitator will only help them move forward. But in so many situations, as perhaps here, there is this real hump facilitators have to get over: that people feel insulted if a facilitator has to come in to “help” them with a conflict, negotiation, relationship, etc. There is very often that initial conclusion by someone that if he/she has been unable to work with that person then no one else case. Further, for a facilitator to suggest that he/she can perhaps help is insulting to that person or organization.

We spend time talking to people about help-seeking. I thank my inlaws for bringing this concept home to me on many occasions. Smart people seek help. Smart people do not let the road end with just themselves. They enlist the help of others to extend the road. It is not about feeling insulted or not smart or unable. It is about recognizing the dynamic of human interplay and using your understanding of that to make use of a resource that research has shown over and over again is useful in resolving conflict: a neutral facilitator. Is that person smarter than you? no. A better negotiator? not necessarily? So why do I need them? Because research shows that the human interplay going on in your situation benefits from impartial third-party involvement. But I don’t want someone else in my business. Well, now you are snubbing the research and just being stubborn. This will not solve your problem nor will it help the underlying relationship at issue nor will you learn anything about problem-solving.

So returning back to this case, it is key that many of the parties stood up for what they wanted. Clearly, it is an impetus that brings them back to the negotiating table with a sense of respect for one another and a shared interest that was accomplished. To really make a go of this now, they need to recognize this is a very difficult negotiation and they could benefit from someone good facilitating their discussion. Use their momentum to pick someone they both can agree upon based upon a shared belief and bring all that goodwill and skill to the table. This will greatly improve their chances of reaching an agreement in a very difficult situation.