How to Prepare for Mediation (or Any Important Meeting)

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a party to a mediation say, “I’ve got it at home!” (“It” being an important document that could make a big difference in the outcome of their case) And then I have to break it to them that the judge and the other party are unlikely to wait a couple of hours while they go home and get it. In addition to forgetting important documents, sometimes folks show up late or having skipped breakfast and we end up mediating through lunch until 2 pm. Now, they’re hungry, tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, mad at themselves, mad at the other party and not at their best to make important decisions.

Seeing this so often has led me to put together a checklist of things to plan on so you go into mediation (or any important meeting) with a clear, focused mind, rather than a scattered, unprepared one. Taking time ahead to prepare and plan will make it much more likely that you will present your best self and experience a better process and outcome.

A Week (or more) Ahead

  • Double check to make sure you have all the paperwork you need. That might be pay stubs and tax returns or retirement statements or medical bills.
  • Make childcare arrangements (you never know how long it will take).
  • Take time to think about the issues at hand and where you are with them. What are your priorities? What issues aren’t as important to you? How pressing is it to you to settle the issues as soon as possible (like at mediation) or, if the negotiations don't go the way you hope, will it be okay to give the whole situation more time (e.g. no agreements today but hopefully at a later time)?\

The Day Before

  • Confirm the time and location. Make sure you know where to park, how far parking is from your destination and how much it costs.
  • Figure out when you need to leave the house to get there on time (which is at least 15 minutes early). You don’t want to feel rushed and panicked because you’re late.
  • Plan your outfit (one less thing to think about), including a sweater or jacket in case it’s cold in the room.
  • Confirm childcare.

That Morning

  • Eat breakfast. Pack a snack and a water bottle.
  • Give yourself extra time in the morning to make sure you have everything you need (paperwork, address, phone charger, paper, pen, etc.).
  • Take some time to think about your day ahead and how you want to be in it. You know you can’t control other people and all the outcomes but you can set intentions for yourself. How do you want to act/be/present?
  • Picture yourself as being patient. Try to be a patient person. You’ll need it -- especially when the other party is talking and you want to jump in with your side of the story. If you go into caucus (where you and the other party are in separate rooms) you’ll need patience here, too, as you wait for the mediator to come back.

Whatever you have ahead of you, take these ideas to help as you move forward. Planning for what you can control will allow you to deal with what comes your way – and to handle what you can’t control – with more capacity and grace.