I've heard many mediator stories about how a small gesture, either directly from a party, from an attorney, or even from the mediator, has a huge effect on the case settling. This week, I'm linking to a new article on Mediate.com by mediator Jan Schau (also located on her mediation blog here) telling a familiar story. An attorney representing the defendant, at whose offices the mediation was held, sprung for the price of lunch at the experienced mediator's suggestion. The case was difficult and emotional, and the mediation went on all day. In the mediator's opinion, the nice lunch, delivered to the office, and a parking validation, made a big difference in the plaintiff's willingness to settle--at least to settle that day. I've heard this story before, and have even experienced such a reaction from parties in a family mediation once they were offered prepared food in the mediation offices, (Our Board had just had a pot luck and there was plenty of food.) I know one very successful civil mediator who keeps a lot of snacks on hand, especially really good chocolate.
Here's another article, same topic, from Chris Annunziata at Miles Mediation in Atlanta, Food really helps people make good decisions and there are studies to prove it! Did we ever doubt it?
My favorite title is from Mike Young: "Decision Fatigue, Mediation, and the Power of M&Ms (Or Why I Don't Care If The @#&*&%@ Dish Towels Have Ducks On Them!)" (This link is to a pdf file.)
There may be other small gestures one could make in mediation that could turn the tide. Snacks, lunch, M&Ms, parking validation...maybe Starbucks, or nice aromas, peaceful colors or sounds?
What are your experiences?