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In Place of Strife

The Mediation Chambers

Reciprocation: oiling the wheels of negotiation

By mid-afternoon, one of the parties was still stone-walling both me and the counter-parties. They definitely let everyone know they didn't want to be there, body language demonstrated a coolness, they patronised others. I took a break, bought a bar of delicious chocolate, slapped it down on the table in their room and said: "Let's all get stuck into this".

The reciprocal change of mood and attitude was instantaneous, the mediation was reinvigorated and settlement was just around the corner.

I'm not advocating chocolate for the adversary as the key to settlement, but for me this clearly confirmed the merits of reciprocity. Scientists who have made an evolutionary analysis of reciprocal altruism, argue that humans have developed innate mechanisms to expect reciprocity in interpersonal relationships and that a lack of it is accompanied by negative effect.

The converse is also true. Courtesy is usually matched by courtesy. Small concessions in negotiation will usually evoke reciprocal movement. An unexpected small act of generosity can even be game changing.

Mediator: Mark Jackson-Stops

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