Comments: Mediation Failures to be Blamed on Chairs

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Susan , Houston Tx   10/24/12
You are so right! Just had a mediation yesterday. Office was decorated in "preschool pumpkins and candy corn, spiders and witches on brooms". Just by the feeling I had in the room, I could tell that this was not the person to take care of my case at all. I think she took more time decorating the room than she did on the mediation. Thanks for validation.

Jeff , NYC NY   05/14/11
One of Many Elements
Michael, I don't think the chairs, like many other nonverbal elements, are the sole contributor but rather one of many factors. I think hard chairs, like other external elements, have a direct affect on us emotional and cognitively. An uncomfortable chair can reduce us from being well, comfortable. Lack of comfort can increase agitation and change our negotiating style. Another research had a person give a presentation to a group of people. half of the audience were told to have their hands relax comfortably at their side. The other half had their arms crossed at their chest. The result- the group with their arms crossed had more negative views on the speaker compared to the other group. Other examples include seating layout, posture, eye contact, and body orientation.

michael , Toronto On     05/06/11
Being Hard
Well, why are hard chairs priming people to hard on each other instead of the problem at hand?

Jeff Thompson, NYC NY     05/05/11
Peg, Great comment and thanks for sharing. One thing I often point out is how subtle many of these nonverbal elements and because of their subtle and subconscious nature, people will discount their importance. This is fine, but for us as mediators (professionals and communication experts), I think it is important for us to be aware of these elements.

Peg Nichols, Olathe KS     05/03/11
What you say is all too true. Most of my mediation experiences were in a courthouse setting where we took whatever room was available and had little opportunity to even view the space in advance. I once did a mediation in a small room that had about a dozen chairs around the wall. Naturally, the parties, who reached the room before I did, chose chairs about as far apart as they could get. I laid my papers on a desk pushed against the wall. I myself felt very uncomfortable. I reached the conclusion that there would be no agreement. We had an unexpected interruption, and both parties were gone from the room at the same time. Party A, however, had left her jacket across the back of her chair. Party B was the first to return, and when he sat down, he did not return to where he had been sitting, but instead sat next to the chair with the jacket hanging on the back, in other words, when Party A returned, they would be sitting next to each other. I was astounded. When Party A returned, she looked surprised at the proximity of Party B, but she sat down anyway. Party B began making conciliatory offers, and soon they had reached an agreement. Was I surprised!