The Closer: The Most Important Role in Mediation
BY SARA ESFANDYARI
In mediation, parties assume roles, says Sara Esfandyari on the Young Mediators blog. Just like actors in a theatre production, armed with their negotiation ‘scripts’. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for legal representatives and clients as they prepare for the mediation stage. But who is ‘the Closer’ in this stage production?
Mediation can be compared with a form of theatre. Participants to a mediation are essentially actors staging a dramatic performance. Each party will have prepared their own negotiation “script” to use throughout the day which supports their overall mediation strategy, usually assigning the role of “hero” to themselves and likely casting their opponent as the “villain”. Legal representatives and their clients should therefore have this in mind when preparing for the mediation and should consider well in advance what role each attendee should play in this so-called “mediation production”. There is, of course, no set structure to a mediation and the nature of any roles will largely depend on the specific facts and context of the dispute between the parties. Most disputes will, however, usually require a “Closer”.
While there is no set format, most mediation “productions” typically begin with a plenary session. Each party (often through their legal representatives) will introduce themselves and begin the mediation by providing their version of events that led to the conflict and articulating their respective positions. The aim of this session is to introduce the “characters” and set the scene for the negotiation. Emotions may run high, particularly if the parties start debating the merits of each side’s case, and the mediator will be carefully monitoring the dialogue during this stage. The parties then retreat to private rooms and the main part of the day is reserved for the negotiation, with the mediator shuttling between rooms and attempting to guide the parties towards a fair outcome that is acceptable to both sides. At this stage, the parties will showcase the main events of the “production” by emphasising key points in their case through the mediator and reconstructing elements of the dispute. Finally, the parties often meet again to seek to resolve the conflict and agree a settlement on mutually acceptable terms.
This is where the benefit of a Closer comes in.