By Steven G. Mehta

In every mediation, one of the first questions that arises is not what is the bottom line or what do we need to do to settle the case.  Instead, one of the first questions asked by attorneys in mediation is “where is the coffee?”  Well recent research has shown that caffeine and sugar in combination can improve the efficiency of brain activity.

According to the Josep M. Serra Grabulosa, one of the main researchers, “our main finding is that the combination of the two substances improves cognitive performance in terms of sustained attention and working memory by increasing the efficiency of the areas of the brain responsible for these two functions.”

I feel that innately I must have always have known this concept because I have from day one of mediation provided plenty of coffee and sugary snacks at my mediations.  Indeed, I am a firm believer in making sure that food is always available at mediation.

Food can also help on several other levels.  First, food can be for some a comfort.  When dealing with tough issues, sugary, pleasant, meaningless treats can provide the comfort to the participants.  Anecdotally, I find that in tough mediations where there are a lot of difficult issues, the snacks usually go faster than in easier less complex mediations.

Second, the snacks can help to avoid low sugar mania – when people make bad decisions because they are hungry or low on energy.

Finally, some studies have shown that people are more willing to listen to your ideas or accept a sales pitch after they have eaten.  I have dedicated a chapter to this issue in my book, 112 Ways to Succeed In Any Negotiation or Mediation.

So next time you see that coffee and donut in a mediation, you know that you are only helping your cognitive skills by taking them.