Feelings and Emotions May Be Most Important

Some years ago, when I was new to mediation, I was a co-mediator for a female patient and her fertility doctor regarding several failed attempts to impregnate her.

The patient was distraught, frustrated, disappointed, and suffering. The doctor was cautious and probably fearful of a lawsuit.

Though the patient was asking for a monetary settlement, during the mediation it became apparent that the patient was more concerned with extracting an apology from the doctor. Finally, they came to a monetary resolution, but the doctor adamantly refused to apologize or take responsibility in any way other than the agreed-upon payment.

The following day, the patient called me and told me that she was going to file a formal complaint against the doctor with the California medical board even though she would lose the monetary settlement.

In a very palpable way , her action reinforced the idea that often feelings and emotions are far more important than any material resolution. In fact, they frequently stand in the way of an otherwise relatively easily attained agreement. Therefore, I am vigilant to detect the undercurrrent of emotions that are often lurking below the calm surface of a freely flowing river of a mediation. My experience in that mediation also encouraged me to persist and make that one last effort in assisting participants to resolve their conflicts even in the face of a seemingly hopeless situation.