One way to do this is to seek out ties that bind, which they call affiliation. Affiliation occurs when we feel that we are “in it” together, that there is some commonality that binds us together. Building affiliation is a mediation skill.
Fisher and Shapiro suggest connecting at a personal level. An effective way to do this is to talk about things you care about. I’ve found asking questions about raising children to be a way to take a business relationship to a more personal level. (I’ve picked up some useful tips, too!) Other affiliations include age, rank in the legal world, politics, religion and common interests such as sports, hobbies, etc. As you might expect, though, if you are not authentic in trying to build affiliation, it doesn’t work.
Consider calling opposing counsel when you first receive their names and contact information. Set up a civil working relationship on the telephone. Meet them in person. Go out to lunch. Search out common backgrounds and interests. You can take-no-prisoners on the facts and the law, but on a personal level, a more collaborative style can work in your client’s favor.
Remember that the overall goal is to use persuasion in mediation. If the other side feels some affiliation with you, they will be more ready to listen to you. Then you can more easily persuade, and you are less likely to find yourself at impasse in mediation.
For more information on mediation skills, you can download my pamphlet: "WWLD: What Would Lincoln Do? 5 Mediation Skills."