When you’re mediating conflict, food is often an afterthought. Most mediators and lawyers are focused on the actual mediation process, not considering the power food has in accelerating and improving their success rates. However, having a meal during mediation can shift the dynamics in your favor. Let’s explore why.
Food can help break down barriers between two parties who may have difficulty communicating. According to a Harvard study, negotiation outcomes increased 12% when parties shared a meal. Eating delicious food gives both parties a chance to relax, minimizing the pressure of negotiation. It also gives them something to talk about unrelated to their dispute – a natural way to create affinity or rapport. Breaking bread together could be the solution to unlocking a previously unattainable settlement!
Focuses Attention on Mutual Goals
When people are hungry, they become distracted and irritable – making it difficult to build common ground. A healthy meal can increase the production of new neurons, a process called neurogenesis. By providing a nourishing meal that can boost mental focus, you – as the arbiter – can tip negotiations in your favor… through taste!
Encourages Healthy Behavior
Food can also help keep people from becoming hostile during mediations by providing periodic breaks. ‘Eating together’ encourages civility and respect while promoting compromise rather than trying to steamroll over ideas. We’’ve all been there. Additionally, passing food at the table in a communal way allows conflicting parties to work together on something outside of mediation, resulting in potentially better outcomes.
Food can transform difficult situations and help break down barriers between two parties. Not only does food provide physical sustenance but also mental sustenance as well by allowing negotiators a chance to relax away from intense negotiations and refocus their attention on mutual goals before getting back into it again. So next time you’re preparing for a mediation session, try sharing a meal! It can make all the difference.
Link to Obituary November 16, 2012 Irvine, Calif. – Hon. H. Warren Knight (Ret.), the Orange County judge who founded JAMS, the largest private provider of mediation and arbitration services...By Chris Poole