Ok, I admit, listening does not come easily to me. As with so many of us with Type A leaning personalities, getting to the finish line and moving on to the next task tends to win over taking time to hear from all stakeholders in a debate. However, as a lifelong passionate student of all things related to self-improvement, I think I’m actually finally getting the hang of it!
In dispute resolution it is important to recognize that emotions will run the gamut…from anger, fear, grief, humiliation, frustration, and even fatigue to elation, gratification, and appreciation. Mediators often find themselves in a paradoxical position – on one side encouraging and empathizing with productive and often intense emotions, and at the same time compelled to fulfill our obligation to remain unbiased and impartial during mediation sessions.
Let’s face it, we all know better than to go into a negotiation/settlement discussion ready to pick a fight so, why do so many parties still show up unprepared with teeth bared and weapons drawn? I suppose it goes back to our primitive instinct of “fight-or-flight.” Executives or high level professionals didn’t reach their positions by being push-overs, so it is likely that if the parties participating in the discussions have not had the opportunity to prepare properly for the conference, we will unconsciously (or consciously!) come ready to do battle. Of course, on the other hand, there are individuals who, when faced with a threat, simply freeze and cannot respond productively.
As the former 28-year President and General Manager of the famed Colony Beach & Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, FL, I was asked to speak about how my life has transformed in the five years since its closing. The article can be seen HERE.
In my case, turning to helping others achieve settlements and resolution to their business disputes gives me gratification and even a little “therapy” for my own disappointment in not finding a way to save The Colony. A year’s long dispute between a number of interested parties, most of whom had no knowledge of the risk involved in not participating responsibly and constructively in mediation, has yet to be resolved…eight years after the first complaint was filed.
Egotism, greed, mistrust, and resentment are not uncommon in creating disputes. This case was rife with all and much more. I am a strong believer that virtually any dispute can be settled when a qualified and expert mediator sets the stage carefully and thoughtfully, understands the emotional quotient of the disputing parties, and takes time to assess the possible outcomes without settlement and clearly articulates those to the parties.
The mediators who assisted in all of our attempted efforts to settle did a good job. However, I am convinced that someone with real-life experience on both sides of the table, proficiency in management of a large and diverse organization, tangible knowledge of risks to business and the people served and dependent on it, and especially the emotional burden that an extended dispute causes, can offer an even greater chance of encouraging and finding solutions.
Why seriously consider resolving your dispute through mediation? First and foremost is always the cost. If the case proceeds to trial – cost of attorneys, cost of lost reputation, cost of failed relationships, cost of emotional distress, and possible cost of a forever lost business, as was the case with The Colony.
Not taking an active role in devising a plan to settle the dispute, and rather leaving it to a judge and/or jury to decide, is bound to produce harsh and unexpected outcomes – and those might just come to your side of the case. There simply are no guarantees in the courtroom, and if your attorney offers any promise of victory, maybe you should consider hiring someone else!
Becoming a Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator was my way of making Limoncello from the lemons served to me in my own business’s difficult circumstances. My promise to my clients is to facilitate peaceful, purposeful and productive dialogue between the disputants, negotiate settlement in a calm and private setting, apply effective strategies to encourage adversaries to work collaboratively to satisfy their interests, and resolve their conflicts through mediation, without the uncertainty, unpredictability and expense of litigation.
I wish you successful resolution in all your disputes! Okay, one can always hope for peace in the world…right?
There are more possible scenarios for business disputes to arise than imaginable. For every one, however, one of the first decisions prior to entering litigation must be mediation or arbitration. The emotional and financial cost of entering a courtroom along with the often risky choice of leaving the outcome up to a judge and/or jury, and not in the hands of disputants to control the settlement, cannot be overstated.