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An early joint session does not need to involve posturing. Rather, it can be a great opportunity for the parties jointly to set an agenda, especially where there are a number of issues.
Wherever possible agree to an early joint meeting at the mediation. In that session, before you do anything else acknowledge what you believe to be the other side’s primary concerns, showing curiosity and a willingness to listen to any corrections they make. Be tentative: “As I understand it, what you are saying is …”. The person you are negotiating with is more likely to feel respected, and is more likely to negotiate with you in a positive and co-operative way. You will also get a clearer idea of what they want and where they stand.
Once you have done that go on to set out your primary interests with absolute clarity. That way you will anchor them. As the day goes on you can, as necessary, come back to your initial statement: “As you will recall in the opening I said that the main thing we need is …”