Occasionally, amongst the dross of self-help paperbacks that I only ever buy at airports, a gem can be found.  Like a snappy little paperback called Fish!

It tells the story of the fun-loving fishmongers at Seattle's Pike Place Market and how they come to help the heroine, Mary Jane Ramirez, engineer a turnaround of her company's troubled operations department, a group described as a "toxic energy dump". 

One of the prescriptions given by the fishmongers is "Choose Your Attitude" by which they mean that we need to recognise that we each have options as to how we respond when things aren't going well.  I've personally found this insight incredibly useful when, as sometimes happens, someone does something that irritates me.  It may still bug me - a lot - but I know very well that by tomorrow morning I'll have calmed down and moved on. I won't forget it (ever!) but I won't feel it the same way.

So why not change my mindset now rather than wait for the morning?  Most things don't have to disturb my equilibrium if I don't let them.

I find this approach is also relevant in my mediation work.  Many of the parties I work with tell me that their cases will never settle, usually "because the other side are so intractable", and some seem genuinely surprised when I say that all my cases are "virtually impossible".   After all, I say, if it was easy you'd already have settled it yourself, as you're not going to pay me good money to push at an open door.

So whereas parties may come in with the negative mindset that the only way to get a deal is if they can force the other side to cave in, my mindset is that I believe there is a deal out there, even if I don't yet know where to find it.  And it's that belief which gives me focus.   

I know this sounds like some trite "power of positive thinking" message, but this piece about how US Navy SEALs think when they're heavily out-numbered and out-gunned by bad guys, makes the same point.  They won't claim that they're not afraid, but they've learnt how to master fear by first admitting it and than by changing the conversation in their head - by focussing on what they need to do instead of becoming overwhelmed by what might go wrong.

And if it works from them, it can work for me - and fortunately without all the assault courses and push-ups.

But if you need help sorting out a toxic energy dump, contact the CEDR Skills team at training@cedr.com.


Graham Massie is a member of CEDR Chambers, a panel of highly experienced mediators with proven excellence in providing mediation, training and consultancy services to clients. 

To book Graham as a mediator, contact the CEDR Commercial Team at adr@cedr.com or call 020 7536 6060.