Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Talented Mediators & Salt – A Commonality?

Florida Rules for Certified and Court-Appointed Mediators, Rule 10.370, Advice, Opinions, or Information, provides in part:

(c) Personal or Professional Opinion. A mediator shall not offer a personal or professional opinion intended to coerce the parties, unduly influence the parties, decide the dispute, or direct a resolution of any issue. Consistent with standards of impartiality and preserving party self-determination however, a mediator may point out possible outcomes of the case and discuss the merits of a claim or defense. A mediator shall not offer a personal or professional opinion as to how the court in which the case has been filed will resolve the dispute. [Emphasis added.]

Talented mediators have an “optimal” level of assertiveness – that is, they are not under- or over-assertive. According to a recent study in the February issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association, leaders who are perceived as low or high in assertiveness are seen as less effective than those who are moderately assertive. Those who are moderately assertive have the flexibility of modifying their behavior up or down as the situation dictates [i.e., they can “duly” influence the parties without coercing them].

What does salt have to do with this? One of the researchers has described assertiveness in this way: “We say it’s like salt in a sauce: when there’s too much or too little, it’s hard to notice anything else, but when it’s just right, you notice the other flavors. No one compliments a sauce for being perfectly salted, and it’s just as unusual for a leader’s [substitute – mediator’s] perfect touch with assertiveness to attract much notice.”

How much “salt” [substitute – assertiveness] is in your mediator toolbox?

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