“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen.  “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day.  Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”  Lewis Carroll

I was thinking recently about my favorite quotation, as pertains to mediating legal disputes.  I came across this some years ago and remain amused at how this quotation from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland aptly captures one of the most critical elements to a successful mediation.  As a seasoned mediator, I begin each session by affirming my absolute confidence that a settlement of the dispute can be arrived at during the session we are about to commence.

Parties come to the process often unfamiliar and apprehensive, yet warily open to the prospect, especially if reinforced by the suggestion that anything is possible. Of critical importance is affirming their hope, often lingering below the surface, that a compromise may be reached and a settlement achieved.  Parties to litigation yearn for clarity and certainty in an otherwise intimidating, unpredictable process.  The mere suggestion that a resolution is achievable and within reach, can be quite powerful — especially when conveyed with genuine confidence by the mediator.  It can create the requisite freeing climate for creative thinking and exploration of viable solutions to an otherwise vexing and seemingly unsolvable dispute.

In the last few months I have successfully assisted in settling three complex and challenging matters; two business dissolutions and a sexual-harassment claim, each in one full day session.  I like to believe that setting the stage properly at the outset was of critical importance in allowing the process to unfold, with parties and attorneys both actively participating, and coming from a place of confident optimism.

Sometimes all the participants need is permission to open their minds to all possibilities, and to let go of preconceived notions that resolution of a thorny controversy is outside their attainable reach.  I thought it of benefit to share this small morsel of mediator’s wisdom this morning…