As I wrote about how I explain the mediation process, I reflected on some recent mediation. When I am not mediating family cases in my private practice, I volunteer in the Denver County Courts, and this has involved my co-mediating eviction cases. We begin those cases very much as I begin my private cases, with the full explanation of the process. However, what is said is not always heard.
Eviction compromises a basic human need for shelter and creates a primal fear of being quite literally left out in the cold. You might not think there was much room to deal. Indeed, I have seen the tenant completely absorbed in an apparently non-negotiable position, I think out of fear that there was simply no room for maneuver. We failed to communicate the potential in the mediation process, at least initially.
I've also seen the opposite in a pair of very respectful litigants who simply could not be brought to the point of negotiation on issues that they themselves had identified in two hours of opening remarks. I think they were just at ease with being able to vent and be heard by a third party. They wanted to tell us, and then they went on to tell the judge!
Not every culture immediately absorbs the mediation process, and not everyone is calm and collected enough to see beyond the present towards the future. That said, the process works much more often than it does not. The tenant who initially felt trapped came through and successfully bargained for money and time, and eventually relinquished possession of the home on a schedule that worked for everyone.
Nature is red in tooth and claw, but mediation can blunt that reality, and bring a civilized outcome. That is why I do this work.