Sarah Shahi (the actress that plays Kate Reed) used to be a cheerleader–and it shows.

She cheers her clients up, she cheers for them when they do something right, and she cheers for them when they are on the defense (tee hee).

But when she is acting, I expect to come across as a typical actress.  Swooping in, all eyes on her, stealing the scene.  She doesn’t.  When I leave the show, I am still thinking about the parties and their problems.

So putting acting, networks, and ratings aside for a moment: I think she is exampling exactly what we should be doing as mediators.  Mind you, I would like –scratch that, I would LOVE — to swoop in at the last moment, with my chocolate cookie, my latte, my Christian Loboutin heels, solve everything perfectly, and have fireworks in the background lighting up my name.  And at the end of the day I would go home and be proud of how great I was.

But what about the parties?  Is it my job to impress them with how great I am?  Or to serve them and empower them and make them realize how great they are?  Sure, I think we want to impress parties a little bit so that they have confidence in our skills, but I think it needs to end there.  As someone who likes to talk (my husband chiming in says scratch that, LOVES to talk), it is hard for me sometimes to sit in the background and give someone else the credit.

I have created a checklist of tips based off of the Fairly Legal episode Believer.  Here are ways that mediators can empower their parties:

  1. Caucus: When Kate Reed asked the employer to leave the roof so that she could speak alone with the inventor, she was telling the inventor how valuable he was.  Caucusing with parties is one way to let a party know that you value what they are saying so much that you will give them your undivided attention.
  2. Identity: Kate Reed had her rooftop/jumper/inventor client describe who he was, and then she reaffirmed that back to him.  “You are someone who clearly loves your work, right?” She was able to help the man remember who he really was, and move past his immediate fears.
  3. Safety: It is up to the mediator to create a safe space for people to brainstorm.  If people aren’t comfortable, then they cannot think creatively. Simply put, when people know that they can suggest ideas without them being criticized, they can think outside the box.
  4. Compliments: Yes, flattery, unfortunately, works. Kate often greets people with little comments such as something cheesy like, “You look very dapper in that suit today.”  Or, after they have made a big concession, she acknowledges it.  When people receive positive reinforcement for making progress in a mediation, they are empowered to continue making right decisions.
  5. Believe: A lot of basic mediation techniques are really just good common sense.  As much as we would like to think that we have patent on them, most people know how to mediate well with a little help.  If you see that good part of people–with some people it takes a little airbrushing, I know–then they will feel your confidence.  No matter how good of an actor you are, nothing says “I believe in you” like actually believing in someone

So, the next time you’re in a mediation, instead of telling your clients what to do, sit back for a minute and let them know that you believe in them to make the right decision. And they might even do it.