My husband and I have two English Springer Spaniels, one of whom (aka Buddy) loves to walk and to say “hi” to other dogs. The other day I was walking Buddy when we came across a man walking his dog and intently participating in a conversation on his cell phone. From several feet away, I called out and asked if Buddy could say “hi”?  The man responded,  saying “no”, he was on his cell phone. So, we walked on and enjoyed the rest of our walk.

But it got me thinking about multi-tasking. I do not know about you, but I have seen so many people walking their dogs and being on their cell phones oblivious to the world around them.  They are too busy on the phone to enjoy nature or to literally and figuratively “stop and smell the roses…” And because they are not really paying attention to their dogs, I wonder how much the dogs are really enjoying the walk. As any dog lover knows, dogs are fantastic when it comes to non-verbal communication, but the owner has to be paying attention to pick up on the cues.

So- what does this have to do with mediation and negotiation? Multi-tasking! There have been numerous articles discussing studies showing that multi-tasking does not work. Trying to multi-task “makes us less efficient and more prone to errors.”  (“Why Multitasking Doesn’t Work”). Most of us are capable   only   of “monotasking;”   doing only one task at a time. Our brains are simply not capable of “switching gears to bounce back and forth between tasks- especially when those tasks are complex and require active attention.” (Id.) When we do try to multitask in such situations, we are less efficient and make more mistakes. What we are actually doing is engaging in discrete or separate actions in rapid succession or “task-switching” “(Id.)

As Dr. Cynthia Kubu, a neuropsychologist, points out, multitasking divides our attention, making” … it harder for us to give our full attention to one thing.” (Id.)  It also affects our ability to learn:

“The more we multitask, the less we actually accomplish, because we slowly lose our ability to focus enough to learn,” Dr. Kubu says. “If we’re constantly attempting to multitask, we don’t practice tuning out the rest of the word to engage in deeper processing and learning.” One study found that college students who tried to multitask took longer to do their homework and had lower average grades.

Another pitfall is that trying to do too much at once makes it harder to be mindful and truly present in the moment – and mindfulness comes with a plethora of benefits for our minds and our bodies. In fact, many therapies based on mindfulness can even help patients suffering from depression, anxiety, chronic pain and other conditions. (Id.)

 Negotiation is a learning process. To resolve our differences, we often must learn about the other party’s needs, interests and concerns. This means we have to gather information from the other party. But if during a mediation, we spend all of our “down” time on our laptops or cell phones trying to resolve other matters when the mediator is not in the room or actually talking with us, then we really are not “in the moment” focusing on the task before us.  We are not processing and analyzing or even brainstorming about the information conveyed to us by the mediator.  Rather, we are trying to multitask which will lead to errors in trying to settle the matter before us.

So, take a lesson from the man who was too busy on the phone to allow Buddy to say “hi” to his dog: do not multitask at a mediation. Be in the moment and give 100% of your attention to what is going on during the mediation, what the mediator is saying and how you wish to respond. No doubt, by monotasking, you will get much better results in resolving your dispute.

… Just something to think about.




Do you like what you read?

If you would like to receive this blog automatically by e mail each week, please click on one of the following plugins/services:

and for the URL, type in my blog post address: and then type in your e mail address and click "submit".

Copyright 2021 Phyllis G. Pollack and, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Phyllis G. Pollack and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.