Two Selves (In Mediation)

Two Selves, in mediation as in life …

It has been said that everyone has two selves – one they know and one they show. The one is kept to ourselves protectively, and the other is shared with others selectively. One cannot suppose to really know the whole truth about another person any more than others can really know the whole truth about us unless we choose to reveal it. Our perception of others, and theirs of us, are usually incomplete and relatively uninformed.

The same can be said of people, interactions and perceptions in mediation during the course of negotiations. Participants in the mediation process tend not to outwardly express or reveal their true feelings. Instead, in furtherance of their goals, they try to be protective of their real concerns, desires and intentions lest they be taken advantage of by opponents. The exchange of monetary demands and offers at the beginning of a negotiation, and through almost all of it, is typically marked by posturing. During that process the parties exchange positional arguments and analysis in an attempt to undermine an opponent’s position and bolster their own. Contemporaneously, they buy time to understand, absorb and evaluate the respective positions. It is not until late in the process as they get closer to actual settlement that the parties reveal themselves, and then reluctantly, incompletely and often unintentionally. Overcoming this reticence is an essential part of the negotiating process and one that an effective mediator fosters as part of helping the parties to achieve closure and settlement.