Don’t Let Your Emotions Take Over
By: Cristin M. Lowe
“Speak when you are angry, and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”
– Dr. Laurence J. Peter
When I caution clients about being emotional during mediation, they often look at me confused. How can you not get emotional during mediation? You’re discussing your children’s future, after all. And then they start getting worked up and thinking all kinds of arguments as to why they have to be emotional during mediation, all the while not ever having listened to what I said.
Displaying emotions during mediation is not wrong or harmful. In fact, I encourage clients to present as “real” people and not be afraid to show their genuine feelings. What I don’t want to happen is for them to allow their emotions to dictate their actions and words.
One of my clients felt the mediator was biased when the mediator reported that this particular person could probably parent better than the rest of the world standing on one foot with one hand tied behind the back. My client was unable to see that this was intended to be a positive description and that the mediator had nothing but respect and admiration for this person’s parenting skills. Emotions took over, and my client was unable to see that the mediator had recommended my client’s proposed parenting plan exactly.
Another time, I had a client participate in out of court mediation. My client and the other party worked hard and came up with a full agreement. The mediator sent both parties a draft of the report wanting to ensure that she had accurately articulated their discussions and agreements. My client wrote back insisting on a number of changes, most of which had nothing to do with the agreements and everything to do with hurt feelings. The other party then also wrote the mediator back, also demanding changes and flinging a number of hurtful comments towards my client in the process. The agreement fell apart, I spent hours calming the client down, they had another emergency mediation session costing hundreds of dollars, the report went to the judge only a couple of days before the hearing, and we were all unprepared for the court date. It was a waste of time, money, and emotions, especially when the recommendations were what my client wanted.
When prepping clients for mediation, I routinely ask them what their “button” is. Is it belittling your mom? Calling you a bad parent? Accusing you of having an addiction issue? Whatever it is, realize that the other side very likely knows exactly what angers you and is probably going to try to exploit that weakness. Make a conscious decision to not react. Remember that when you bite your tongue and refuse to take the bait, you are doing it for your children.