By: Stephen P. Lagoy
An experienced commercial mediator told me about a recent mediation in which there was a great deal of animosity among the parties, so much so that they refused to be in the same room at any point in the mediation. During the course of the mediation, my colleague served several platters of homemade cookies. Not having enough arms to distribute the platters herself, she asked one of the participants to bring a platter of cookies to the conference room occupied by “the other side.” Much to the mediator’s surprise, not only were the cookies accepted gratefully, but the person delivering the cookies was invited into the room and dialogue ensued. Before long, the parties were fully engaged and this seemingly irresolvable conflict proceeded to an amicable resolution. Could it be that cookies resolved the controversy?
In fact, there is a good neuroscientific explanation for what may have happened. The ingestion of food produces a hormone called oxytocin, which has been shown to increase trust and empathy while reducing fear. And eating together is a well recognized trust- builder. So, the mediator’s cookies may well have contributed to the sudden onset of civility among the parties. The moral of this story: the next time you are embroiled in a controversy, break out the Tastykakes.
For more information, contact Stephen P. Lagoy