The Magic Moment
I call it “the magic moment,” some call it “the tipping point” or even “the aha moment.” It occurs in many mediations. It is as hard to recognize as it is to describe. Something someone says or realizes causes a barely perceptible, subtle change in behavior and direction. It is like an enlightenment, like a light bulb going on.
I had a mediation recently where I saw the magic moment arise in a brief session with just the lawyers and me. One said something and the other said, “hold that thought, I’ll be right back.” The second attorney had just learned something he felt was extremely important. When he left, I thought to myself, “that was interesting.” Indeed it was. It was the last piece of the puzzle needed by the attorney to help his client over the hesitation of not settling.
In another recent mediation, the magic moment took place outside of my view, just between a lawyer and her client, but we were all able to utilize it to conclude the settlement. In that private caucus between the attorney and her client, I believe the client realized just how much expense for her, and how much delay, would result from not settling that day. I think this tipping point came as a result of timely and good counseling from the party’s attorney.
In another mediation, in a heart-to-heart conversation with just the parties (father and daughter) and me, with no attorneys present, I saw the father’s face register the sudden realization of a truth told to him by his daughter which led directly to the settlement a short time later.
Whatever or whoever causes the magic moment to occur, whatever the mystical quality of it that gets people to change direction – whether by revelation, realization or acknowledgment of a fact or situation – this is what makes mediation so amazing.
Being able to cause the magic moment, or to recognize it when it occurs, and to nurture/facilitate/use it to the parties’ advantage, comes from the fine tuning of heightened awareness and perceptive sensitivity that are at the core of active listening and observing, and sometimes from “just being there” for them.
This mystical, magical moment that helps people help themselves makes mediation all the more rewarding, even glorious, for the mediator and certainly for everyone else as well.