HOT FUN IN THE SUMMERTIME:
|MIKE DAISLEY Attorney Certified Mediator, NCDRC |HOW TO "BEAT THE HEAT" WHEN TEMPERATURES RISE DURING MEDIATION.
Well-chosen questions can disarm angry litigants, and put focus back on important issues.
Ouch! Even though it's just a number, the ambitious and aggressive demand (or a particularly stingy and conservative offer) has sparked STRONG resentment from the opposing party. Emotions are running high, and the negotiations have begun to break down. What to do?
I might retire if I had a dollar for every time I've heard phrases like...
--What an insult! They're not serious...We're outta here!
--That's absurd! That's (your least favorite animal excrement)!
--Fine! If they only came up $1000, we'll only reduce $1000!
--Go get a REAL number!
Such anger, of course, is understandable. Lawsuits by their nature are contentious and no fun. It's more the rule than the exception that a litigant feels insulted or cheated, either over being sued or for having to file a lawsuit in order to get a satisfactory result to make up for a perceived loss.
|Asking some honest questions can diffuse some genuine anger. |
(through a decade of trial-and-error) that THE POWER OF HONEST QUESTIONS can help tremendously in calming a tough situation.
My favorite "calming question" is the simple inquiry: "How do you think the folks in the other room are going to respond to that?"
This, just by itself, can often get angry parties re-focused on goals and the steps ahead. Of course, just as often some glib instant response might well come back. I am told something along the lines of Rhett Butler's farewell remark
in Gone With The Wind: "...I don't give a damn."
Again, another "honest question" may then be in order: "Well, did I misunderstand you earlier? What did you mean when you said when you really hoped this case might settle today?"
"Well, yeah, but...they are just being unreasonable! This is ridiculous!"
"What kind of response from them at this stage would you consider to be more reasonable?"
Such questions questions may take a while for an angry litigant to answer really well, and usually requires a good analysis of the relative positions. In the process, though, tempers begin to cool. Whatever is eventually deemed to be "reasonable" will almost always lead to one more question:
"What do you think we can do to get them in a more reasonable position?" That one ultimate question finally focuses the angry litigant on the one factor in mediation that a litigant has control over...the development of a negotiating strategy!
Through this give and take -- when the mediator is not making statements or judgments or even giving advice -- an angry litigant can become channelled to act in his or her own best interest, rather than "sending a message" that does little to accomplish any meaningful goal.
Thanks to all of you who have sent in comments and helpful suggestions for future topics. Keep 'em coming!
All the best,
WELLS DAISLEY RABON, P.A.
1616 Cleveland Avenue
Charlotte, North Carolina 28203
phone: (704) 375-1800 fax: (704) 347-0684