Don’t Let the Mediator Bully the Parties from Six Ways to Insure Your Construction Mediation Will Fail over at the Construction Law Musings Blog.
A mediator who is bullying you or your client to settle simply hasn’t gotten the knack of asking questions and creating opportunities. She’s still too used to wielding power. If it’s important enough to spend your day mediating, it’s important enough to tell the mediator that you do not want her bullying any of the parties.
I was co-mediating the final day of a construction dispute with twenty-five to thirty parties when my colleague lost his cool. By two in the morning, a single sub-contractor was holding all parties hostage to his refusal to settle even though he was alone in having achieved all but complete victory – the Plaintiff having agreed to exchange mutual releases to settle with him. Nevertheless, the sub adamantly refused to give up his right to bring a malicious prosecution action against the Plaintiff.
“He needs a woman’s touch,” my co-mediator suggested.
Male or female, someone needed to learn why this single defendant had become so intractable. A bit of questioning revealed that early in the litigation, the sub’s attorney had inadvisably assured his client that he could win a malicious prosecution suit. Counsel was not about to back down now, particularly after he’d been harangued by my colleague in front of his client. I was all but certain the sub had no intention of spending further money litigating the case. Why was he clinging to his right to sue? The three of us talked for 45-minutes while the rest of the parties waited. I don’t know what it was in that conversation that revealed the problem to me. I only know that at some point I realized that the sub could not justify the money he’d paid his counsel unless he emerged from the litigation victorious.
“You know,” I finally said, “you’re the only defendant who actually won here.”
“How do you figure that?” asked the sub, eyeing me with suspicion.
“Everyone else, no matter how unlikely their potential liability, had to pay the Plaintiffs to be released from the case. Your attorney is the only attorney who negotiated a settlement for nothing. He won!
And the case promptly (and finally) settled.
Remember that settlement is not about power or authority. It’s about influence and you cannot influence another human being by bullying him. You can only influence him by asking questions, listening carefully to the answers, and responding to the need he is expressing. Not only will hectoring fail to produce the desired result, it will usually trap the bullied party into a position he has no actual desire to maintain. Restrain the pitbulls and release the attentive questioners. Theirs is the Kingdom of Resolution.
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