The single most important thing that can make or break a successful mediation is giving the other side the time and space to “let it all out.” Do not attempt any negotiations or solutions until the other side feels that they have been heard.
This is a lesson that I learned long ago from my summer job as a ride supervisor at an amusement park. I spent the majority of my time responding to guest complaints because they were stuck on a ride, not able to take giant stuffed animals with them, or upset that their children did not meet the proper height requirement to ride safely. But even when confronted by the angriest guest, I was always able to defuse the situation. The simple trick was actively listening and giving the guest the time and space to vent. Only then was the guest willing and able to listen to solutions.
Thankfully, I’m no longer scaling 200-foot roller coasters to talk to angry guests, but sometimes a tough mediation can get the adrenaline pumping just as much. The lesson I learned from my amusement park days has served me well as an attorney and has enabled me to achieve settlements in cases where compromise seemed hopeless.