I like to kibitz, to make small talk, at a mediation before we get started.
First, it’s a great way to get to know other people.
Second, and more importantly, I think it helps to break the ice, to warm up the room, maybe to help ease the tension or stress of the disputants coming to the mediation.
I talk about all sorts of things.
I talk about the usual traffic and weather, I talk about family and I talk about other things that interest me (not sports), like …
the book I’m reading or one I have read, or
the latest episode of Downton Abbey or Nova (I like PBS), or
even the volunteer work I do or have done.
I ask people about themselves as well, what they do for a living, what they like to do for fun, what they will do this weekend, whatever.
People like to talk about themselves, and it relaxes them because it’s (usually) a safe topic.
I have to be careful what I ask the lawyers who attend the mediation.
Lawyers love to tell “war stories” about this case or that.
Sometimes, others run out of patience during these “war stories.” But lawyers are proud of the work they do, and allowances must be made for everyone.
And sometimes there are lessons in the “war stories” that will be useful to highlight litigation risk later in the conversation. So, war stories can be important.
I try to stay away from discussing politics.
In an election year, I think this will be a hard thing to do.
And religion, that can be a problem subject too, although much of politics appears to be religion these days.
Well, I’d better not talk about that any further.
Maybe it will rain this weekend. What do you think?