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Truth or Dare

Did you ever play “truth or dare” as a kid? I did, and I remember those anxious moments leading up to my choice of truth, or dare.  Of course, I knew if I chose TRUTH I might “have” to divulge something about myself I would prefer to keep private.  But, if I chose DARE I might “have” to do something I really did not want to do.  Either choice could take me somewhere I didn’t want to go, or it could be no big deal at all – even fun! 

Having experienced the three primary roles of mediation (plaintiff, defendant, and mediator), I recognize that participating in mediation can be a bit like playing Truth or Dare. During the game, players make a choice regarding what action they are going to take,  then put themselves in the hands of the other players and hope they are not superficially damaged in some way.  During mediation, the participating parties make decisions regarding how much “truth” they will divulge (to the mediator and/or the other party) and how far they “dare” to move in their negotiations. They then place a level of confidence in the mediator, and hope their case will not be damaged in any way as she communicates with the
other side about their positions. 

There is an interesting dichotomy that occurs during mediation: generally the adverse parties have an earnest interest in resolving their case, which requires a fairly high degree of openness. However, the parties also experience  varying levels of angst when deciding what information to release, and taking the calculated risk of increasing their offer or reducing their demand.  I have observed there is invariably a turning point, when the energy in the room is palpable and decisions are being made.  Decisions which will determine the mediation outcome; impasse or press on to agreement. It is at this time the parties choose whether or not to have faith in me, as their mediator, to keep confidences and maintain a balanced process.  They also decide whether or not to trust me to articulate their truths, even as they dare to move in their negotiations.  Certainly, these choices may be viewed as risks.  Interestingly however, it is typically this very decision (this sometimes painful decision) that generates the momentum required to create a real opportunity for resolution.  It is at this point, as I observe the parties making their decisions, that the Jeopardy theme song (different game, I know) starts playing in my head, and remains until the mediation concludes.  This is the fork in the road; resolution or continued litigation hangs in these choices. 
As the party involved in the case, these are your decisions to make.  As your mediator, it is my role to accept your decisions without judgment, honor confidentiality, and work to ensure the mediation process does no harm.  It is also my desire to produce a positive experience for you.

As you decide, I recommend you recall the rules of mediation:

  • Your mediator is a neutral third party; I have no stake in the outcome or terms of resolution.
  • Mediation is confidential; that confidentiality applies to the overall process, as well as private discussions in accordance with your will.
  • At the end of the process, the result is completely up to you; YOU decide whether or not the case resolves and YOU decide your actions after mediation, should the case continue.

In my experience, the more open the parties are with me (regarding their interests and positions in the case), the more likely I am to be successful in facilitating resolution – even when the information I have been given is confidential and never divulged to the adverse party. 

What will you choose during your next mediation: Truth or Dare?  Both or neither? Like during the childhood game, there may be anxious moments of decision during mediation, but that’s where the similarities end.  You will never “have” to divulge anything you would prefer to keep private, and you will never “have” to do anything you really do not want to do. Have a little faith in the process, and I bet you will be satisfied with the result.


Karen Pelot

Karen Pelot has been a full time mediator since 2007.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, and a Master of Arts in Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution.  Prior to becoming a mediator, Karen enjoyed a career as a senior leader for three separate Fortune 100 companies in the… MORE >

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