The next animal in the Chinese zodiac is the Horse. According to the Chinese zodiac, one of the strengths of the Horse is their sense of humour.
It can be hard to experience humour in conflict. Without doubt, many times in the mediation session, people are angry, frustrated, upset and perhaps even shocked about their dispute.
Humour is a powerful tool for communication. If, and it is a big “if”, people share a moment of levity then it can create a strong sense of connection. Even if this is momentary it can provide a reset for a negotiation which has become fraught and stuck.
Usually I do not get to see the humour of parties in mediation, however, I remember sitting in a mediation where both parties were exhausted. One party made a suggestion, which was intended to be funny and which luckily the other party responded to in kind. There was a moment of laughter. We went back to the agenda item, but both had renewed energy and I detected a little shift in each of their positions to be more collaborative. At the end they were able to reach settlement.
The lesson is that humour can be a powerful tool, and like all tools, it must be used at the right time. The right tool at the wrong time is the wrong tool.