What’s needed for a successful mediation? Perseverance!

A metal key with the word "Perseverance" in place of teeth.

Every party needs to use soft skills – or better put, essential skills –  to get the most out of the mediation process. In my experience, three stand above the others. Over the past few weeks, I’ve shared in blog posts my first two, Optimism and Empathy, and the reasons why they are important.

But there is a third essential skill that is equally crucial.

At the outset of this blog series, I said Determination would round up my top three. But as I was thinking more about it before writing this post, I realized the word didn’t quite capture what I meant. It isn’t specific enough. And so I have replaced it with Perseverance. 

Yes, Perseverance and Determination have similar meanings. But they also have slight but important differences:

Determination: “having made a firm decision and being resolved not to change it.” 
Perseverance: “A continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition; the action or condition or an instance of persevering.” 

As you can see from its definition, determination is a state of mind rather than a skill. On the other hand, perseverance is about action; the effort put forth to achieve something and seeing something through to the end. 

This effort and hard work begin well before the day of the mediation; a lawyer and their client must be fully prepared and informed about the case and the process of mediation and must plan out the concessions they may (or may not) be willing to make.  Preparing in advance allows for clear goals; it can be hard to persevere if you don’t have a clear picture of what you’re working toward.   

In addition, the environment of a mediation can be challenging.  By nature, there will be conflict and opposition, and parties may come to the table with predetermined ideas.  They could be aggressive, cynical, or even confrontational.  As a result, the other party might get their back up and react emotionally. But to persevere is to try and keep your emotions in check, work through this tension, and keep on track with your negotiation plan. This may mean trying to reframe the conversation or trying a different approach to bring the temperature down and to keep the discussion going allowing the parties to move forward towards resolution. 

A continuous, concentrated effort by all parties involved throughout a mediation is critical. Concessions and compromises can often come near the end of the mediation session, but there is a lot of the heavy lifting and effort required before those final minutes. 

Perseverance is not just the effort to achieve a goal despite difficulties or opposition.  It also means the willingness to keep going in the face of perceived failure. I have seen lawyers and clients at the end of a mediation session deem it a “failure” because neither party was willing to make any concessions. The lawyers then put the file on the shelf until pretrial. 

When things look in doubt or at a standstill, reflect on what has gone well so far during the mediation, as well as what has not.  Consider what may need to change or what message needs to be communicated to get back on track. A change in direction or approach may result in significant progress towards resolution. This is what is meant by persevering and making progress at mediation.

So, the third most important essential skill on my list? Perseverance! It is how I work as a mediator, and I encourage lawyers to do the same with clients as they mediate to keep things moving forward towards resolution.


Marshall Schnapp, Toronto / GTA Mediator

Marshall Schnapp, BA, JD, LLM (ADR) has been resolving disputes for over 10 years as a mediator and has extensive experience in adjudication as well. Clients consistently recommend Marshall for his upbeat, tenacious attitude, and the skills he has honed helping resolve thousands of matters.

Get in touch with Marshall by email at marshall@schnappmediation.com or by telephone (647) 250-7216 today to set up a consultation, and see why he is the right mediator for your next file. For booking availability, please visit https://schnappmediation.com/booking/ or contact Lacey Day at admin@schnappmediation.com or (647) 250-7216.