Typically, when parties come to mediation, it is pretty much expected that there would have at least some “bad blood” between them, since they are in the middle of a conflict.
However, in this case, actual blood had been spilt because one party had actually shot the other!
Prima facie, it would look like that there would be no way these parties would agree on anything, given that such extreme physical violence had taken place. And one would have expected that the parties would come to the mediation all girded up for a fight.
However, within a few minutes into the mediation, I realized that that preliminary information could be highly deceptive. And that a single incident of physical violence (even as extreme as a shooting) might not be as damaging to a relationship as other actions generating conflict (like cheating, defamation, breaching an agreement, etc).
In this instance, to play it safe, from the very outset, I had decided not to have the parties in the same room at any time during the mediation.
Then I decided to straightway take the bull by the horns and brought up the shooting incident (but in a somewhat light-hearted way, since I was not sure about what reaction to expect) with each party. To my astonishment, it did not appear that either party considered the shooting incident to be that big a deal (- and I knew it would have certainly been a major factor if the matter did not settle in mediation and went to court).
Once it was clear to me that the shooting episode would not be a stumbling block at all and the parties had come in looking for an amicable way out, I was confident that I would be able to assist them in finding the appropriate avenue to a solution.
In the end, it turned out to be one of the shortest mediations that I had done. We reached an agreement by noon, I churned out the Mediation Settlement Agreement in about 30 minutes and the parties were out of the door with the MSA (signed by all parties, attorneys and myself) hot off the printer in their hands at around 1:00 pm, with this traumatic portion of their lives behind them, hopefully onto better things.
And the feedback they gave me reinforced that my approach had indeed been effective – not only did we reach a settlement but everyone seemed to have enjoyed the process as well – which I found to be most gratifying!