There is a large debate in the mediation world as to whether the parties should attend a joint session early in the mediation. This post, however, will not join that debate, but will instead posit a new beginning. We need to sing the national anthem together to start of the mediation. After all, isn’t that what we do at sporting events. We sing. Well suprisingly, there is a valid reason why singing together could be beneficial for a mediation.

According to Scott Wiltermuth of the University of Southern California, we cooperate more when we act physically in sync. In one study, students who sang “O Canada”- The Canadian National Anthem — in unison before playing an economic game were more likely to make decisions for the collective gain rather than the individual gain.

Another more sinister example of physically syncing with another person is from the Nazi goose step. According to Wiltermuth, such physical synchronicity epitomizes the impact of the potential of human synchrony. In his study, students that worked physically together to arrange cups in a synchronized sequence were more likely to accede to a confederate’s unethical suggestion.

So how can we use this in mediation without rocking out together to the Police’s “Synchronicity?” There are several ways. First, consider asking to take a walk with the party or person and then trying to match your pace and speed to the other. Second, Ask the person to help arrange something physical in the environment. Try to include the other person in an activity that involves you both moving your chairs next to each other. There may be many other ways to synchronize your activity.

This concept may also be a corollary to what Robert Cialdini explains as the concept of liking: People are more willing to cooperate with others that are similar to themselves. Obviously if you are doing the same activities, you must have some similarities.
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Finally, it is important to empasize that such techniques are not the be all end all to communication. All actions must be taken and done with the highest level of integrity. Moreover, this concept by itself will not persuade the other side to accede automatically to your request. Remember the studies only show that people are “more likely” to do something. This does not mean they “will” do something.

Research Source: Pyschology Today, October, 2012, “In Sync”

By Steven G. Mehta