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An Offer He Can’t Refuse

From Michael P. Carbone’s Mediation Strategies Blog

Marlon Brando will always be remembered for saying: “I am going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Vito Corleone knew how to make his adversary aware of what was in his best interest. Underworld figures can win if the other side believes that they will be better off by accepting a proposed (or actually an imposed) solution rather than continuing with their preferred course of action.

When we get into disputes in the civilized world we can also make parties offers that they can’t–or at least shouldn’t–refuse. If the offer is in their best interest, as well as ours, then it is the classic win-win situation.

Our difficulty is the phenomenon known as reactive devaluation. The immediate reaction of the other side is to devalue, disbelieve and reject whatever we have to say. They don’t trust us, and they probably don’t even like us. They may think that we are acting like the Godfather, using tactics like extortion and blackmail. How often have I heard those words used in my mediations?

Here is where the mediator can be the true godfather (small “g”) looking out for both sides and helping them to see what is really in their best interest. Before a mediator can take on this role s/he must first spend enough time with the parties to establish a relationship of trust and rapport, but it is worth doing. Of course, the mediator must also have a sincere interest in helping each side to discover a mutually acceptable solution.

I have never had a party say to me in mediation what Marlon Brando said in the movie, but maybe someday it will happen.

Trust that little voice in your head that says, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if…,” and then do it. Duane Michals, photographer.


Michael P. Carbone

MICHAEL P. CARBONE is a senior mediator who has also served as an arbitrator and court-appointed referee. His dispute resolution practice has been built over a period of more than 25 years and covers a wide range of fields.   His exceptional combination of transactional and litigation experience enables him to handle complex litigation… MORE >

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