In this article, Jill Tanz, a skilled mediator, and Martha K. McClintock, an expert in neuroscience, examine how the neurological effects of stress can affect mediation. In their article the authors: examine the physiological stress response to explore what triggers stress in humans and during mediation, highlight the effects cortisol may have on participants in mediation, identify behavior responses to stress, and provide techniques mediators can use to regulate stress.
Individuals undergoing physiological stress during mediation may experience anger, selective attention and biased memories. As a result, these individuals may be more susceptible to misinterpreting the mediator or other parties during mediation, have feelings of preservation, and may have difficulty with problem solving. To combat these stressors, the authors suggest mediators build trust and rapport with the parties (through small talk, active listening and open body language), remind parties that they are the decision makers, acknowledge and normalize stress triggers, and model calm behavior themselves. The authors also recommend modifying the structure of mediation to start with early caucuses (to allow parties sufficient time to de-stress and decrease cortisol levels) and schedule decision-making portions of mediation later in the day.
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