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By Steven G. Mehta,

It is very common in mediation and negotiation for parties to want to vent their anger, frustration, or angst.  However, according to several participants who are on the listening end of such venting, there is only so much venting that they can take or accept without feeling like they have to say something in response.  This post discusses a few techniques to primarily be able to re-start the conversation from your perspective.

First, be careful to cut short a session when a person feels that they need to vent.  Sometimes, your perception of time is different than the other person’s.  Don’t simply judge the time to interrupt as being the one when the other person repeats themselves.  Sometimes, repeating a concept out loud is part of the process of venting and allows the person to digest their own feelings by expressing them again.  In fact, many times, the person’s own feelings may surprise himself or herself. In this situation, it is better to err on the side of allowing too much, rather than too little venting.

Second, if you feel like you have to interject a comment, be careful not to be defensive about your position.  Many people have the tendency to simply wait to present their position and come across as sounding defensive about their position, rather than actually wanting to hear the other perspective.

Third, when you do interject or interrupt, be careful in how you do it.  With some people, you may feel like that there is no right time, because they constantly have an uninterrupted flow of words that cannot be broken.  In those occasions, try the following as suggested by Linda Sapadin, Ph.D in the World of Psychology.  She provides 8 tips on how to interrupt.  Here are a few:


  1. Segue into another topic.

    “That’s some story. But now I’d like to talk about something more upbeat.”

  2. Be direct.

    “I need to interrupt you. I want to tell you what happened to me yesterday.”

  3. Use the person’s name (always an attention-getter), then redirect.

    “Jen, I get what you’re saying; it happened to me too.”

  4. Speak about your time situation.

    “Jared, I only have another minute to chat.”

These concepts. can be helpful in mediations or in negotiations.  


By Steven G. Mehta

Mediators often feel like they have to please everyone.  I don’t think this is true.  I used to agonize over a decision after the fact fearing that I may not have pleased everyone with the actions in a difficult mediation.  But I soon came to realize that you can’t please all of the people, all of the time.  No matter what, mediation involves tension, and tense times.  People in tense times often may not see your efforts for what they are worth.  They may not be happy with the outcome.

This doesn’t mean that it is you — the mediator.  The parties come to the mediation train with a lot of baggage.  Their unhappiness is not necessarily a reflection on the mediator.  This is not to say that the mediator shouldn’t reflect on his or her own actions to make sure that something they did didn’t cause the ire. But in most occasions, the party’s anger or disappointment is not with you, but instead with the situation that they face.

In that light, I saw some mottos about pleasing everyone and continuing the work that matters.

A motto for those doing work that matters:

The math here is simple. As soon as you work hard to please everyone, you have no choice but to sand off the edges, pleasing some people less in order to please others a bit more. And it drives you crazy at the same time.

To see more mottos, see Seth Godin’s blog.

Steve’s Book

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