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Money and Happiness: How Mediation can change your client’s outlook

There was an interesting article in September 12, 2016’s Wall Street Journal called: “Money and Happiness: A Surprising Twist.” In it, author Andrew Blackman, (who incidentally lives on the Island of Crete whilst writing for the WSJ), posits that it may not be about how much wealth you have, but how much cash you have at any given moment which creates a sense of security and well-being. Although it might be obvious that this would be true for those in poverty, it is equally true for the wealthiest whom the researchers studied in the U.K. What the University of Cambridge Researchers found was that happiness was better predicted by the amount of money in the subjects’ bank account at that very moment than by the aggregate wealth of investments and other assets.

For mediation purposes, it seems to me that if the mediator can symbolically suggest that within 30 days, the individual would have $XXXXX in their bank account to do with whatever they wish, including merely keeping it in there as a “safety” precaution if times get rough, we might go a long way towards boosting their happiness quotient. Although mediators have long employed the technique of symbolically “reframing” from a loss (typically the basis for the lawsuit) to a gain, the idea of “cash in account” as opposed to paying off debt and using the settlement funds towards a better future (such as getting re-trained for a new career, for example or getting the physical therapy or surgery they need) has been my focus.

This study suggests that perhaps I add another tool to my toolbox and rhetorically state: “I don’t know how much money you have in your account right now, but what they are offering would increase that by $XXXXX on the 30th of the month. I’m sure that would go a long way towards making you and your family feel more secure and comfortable and I know it would certainly make me happy to know I had that kind of cash in my account–just in case I needed it.” Do we dare?


Jan Frankel Schau

Attorney Jan Frankel Schau is a highly skilled neutral, engaged in full-time dispute resolution. Following a successful career spanning two decades in litigation, she has mediated over 700 cases for satisfied clients. Ms. Schau understands the nuances of trial and settlement practice as well as client relations and balancing the… MORE >

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