Mediating Professor: Psychological Aspects at Least as Important as Legal, Financial

Brandon Peters brings more than two decades of experience as a highly-respected civil litigator to his mediation career, which began with a successful solo practice and continues with Upchurch Watson White & Max. He takes a data- and evidence-driven approach to resolving disputes without ignoring the all-important human factors. To schedule a mediation with Brandon, please call his case manager, Cathy McCleary, at (800) 863-1462, or visit our online calendar.

Florida Mediator Brandon S. Peters Florida Mediator Brandon S. Peters

This week, we had a guest speaker – a prominent clinical psychiatrist I happen to know. He delivered a fascinating lecture titled “Anxiety, Cognitive Distortions and the Impact on Mediation” to my class at Florida A&M University College of Law.

I have long contended that the psychological aspects of mediation are just as important, if not more important, than the legal and financial components. Consistent with that belief, a major theme of my lectures so far has been the notion that mediation is a human construct, subject to human weaknesses. As anyone with significant mediation experience well knows, a highly-agitated party or lawyer can hijack the entire mediation process and obstruct the other participants from their pursuit of a meaningful resolution. I brought in my fellow professional, a licensed physician, to help my students recognize illogical thinking and learn how to manage its corrosive offspring, aberrant behavior.

I often tell my students, “An effective mediator is a reflective mediator.” When a professional neutral encounters human emotional frailties during a mediation conference, that individual will be better equipped to keep the negotiation process moving forward if (s)he has a basic understanding of why a participant is “stuck” and therefore incapable of making reasonable decisions. An effective mediator does not need to be able to administer cognitive behavioral therapy, but it certainly does not hurt for the mediator to appreciate that there are certain situations where rational information processing is outside of someone’s wheelhouse.

After the good doctor took his leave, I devoted our remaining time to student-led presentations about strategic thinking and modern crisis negotiation techniques. You will understand the reasons we focused on those particular topics when you read next week’s blog.

For the previous installment of Brandon’s adventures at FAMU, please click here.

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