(Sounds like the job description of a mediator)
We would probably all agree that, in our country today, people’s viewpoints seem to be more polarized, on more issues, than they ever have been. In the political arena alone, you’re practically asking for a fight with somebody somewhere if you strongly support or oppose vaccines, masks, the border wall or the police — to name just a few.
Democrats cannot tolerate the views of Republicans, and Republicans dismiss the views of Democrats outright as irresponsible.
The resulting intolerance of differing viewpoints does not help determine who is right or more right. It just leads to arguments that nobody wins. Both sides close their ears and resort to name calling and insults. Dialogue becomes vitriolic, and the decision-making process is undermined.
Fortunately, I don’t see a lot of this in mediations.
Sure, lawyers often disagree strongly in evaluating cases and the law — but that’s always been the case. For the most part, lawyers are great at agreeing to disagree — at least that’s been my experience as a mediator. Usually as the dialogue continues and information is exchanged, the process works.
I have yet to see a case where one side held all the cards. Even in terrible, clear-cut liability cases, there is the key unknown: Namely, what’s it worth in a court of law? Put another way, what would a jury of complete strangers award, if anything, in damages?
Mediation provides a safe setting to explore issues of liability and damages, and discuss them openly. It also affords both sides a third-party opinion from a professional peer with no proverbial dog in the fight.
But what about the client who refuses to listen or budge? Often, our greatest challenge isn’t the experienced attorney(s) on the other side of the aisle. It’s taking the client with polarized, and polarizing, viewpoints — and convincing them that the value determined by the mediation process is fair.
With the right mediator, the process can open your client’s ears and eyes to reason — and help him or her make the best decision. Occasionally, the best decision may be to reject a settlement offer and try the case. But in the vast majority of cases I’ve mediated, the parties determine otherwise.
Thank you for taking the time to read my column, I genuinely appreciate it. Please let me know if you have suggestions for future columns, and don’t hesitate to reach-out if I can ever help you with a mediation.
In the meantime, enjoy the journey!