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A Peaceful Moment

I found a peaceful moment today,
Outside on the patio at our home.
I sat and emptied the day’s busy thoughts from my mind.
I looked up and saw the wonder of my surroundings.
The setting sun bathed the large tree nearby in golden light.
The branches of another waved gently in the breeze.
Some birds flew by and then an airplane,
But quietly and at a distance.
The soft air surrounded me.
And I was at peace after a full workday.
I am grateful for the magnificence of the moment
And this opportunity to share the same.

The Junior High School Dance in the Gym

You remember those Junior High School Dances in the Gym. I certainly do. They are among those rites of passage in which we all had to take part.

It’s Friday afternoon. The girls are lined up against one wall in the gym, the boys against the other. Everyone is looking. Everyone wants to dance. The girls stand in a gaggle and giggle. The boys lean against the wall with their hands in their pockets trying to look cool.

No one is on the dance floor, and no boy and no girl wants to go first.

Finally someone has the chutzpah, the nerve, to venture into the void – while everyone is watching – to walk up to another equally scared student and ask.

Everyone holds his or her breath.

She says “yes” in a small voice and the dance starts.  Others join them on the dance floor.

OK, so they are not dancing so closely together.

It’s a slow dance and they hold each other but one could fit a yardstick between them.

All the others who have joined them are situated similarly.

You get the picture.

Sometimes I see a similar ritual in mediation.

Both sides want “to dance” but neither side wants to go first.

Often I hear: “I want the other side to go first so I can see what they want to do” or “I’d like to hear their demand/offer first” or “I want them to make the first offer.”

I usually have to coax one side or the other to start.  Otherwise we will not have a negotiation.

I know intuitively that the one who starts often does better in the negotiation than the other.

This is so, as I see it, because the starter “anchors” the discussion in the range that he or she would like to target, and the other must then react to it.

But the negotiators don’t get it.  I coax and finally someone makes the first move.

One side finally makes an aggressive offer. The other side objects. “It’s too high” or “It’s too low.”  Yet the negotiation begins.

Rarely, the objector has no response except to get up and leave.

But that is not too often. Instead, a counteroffer is made and we are on our way.

Finally, there’s just a yardstick’s difference between them, they come closer together, and a settlement is reached.

In retrospect, the starter sometimes realizes that he/she did better in the negotiation having gone first, as I suspected he/she would.

I attended a session of a “Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Colloquium” this past week at the UCLA Law School which confirmed my intuition that the starter often does better … with some qualifications/exceptions.

The discussion was led by Professor Adam Galinsky of the Columbia Business School, and the presentation was terrific.

Afterwards, I met up with a lawyer I know who attended the lecture. Like others, she thought that she should never make the first offer and now she is rethinking her strategy.

That might not be a bad idea.

***

David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. For further information, please go to his website at http://karpmediation.com .

An Apology Made All the Difference.

The legal issues were not complicated in this commercial landlord/tenant dispute.

Nevertheless the mediation was a challenge, mostly due to the longstanding, overlapping business, professional and personal relationships of the two sides.

On the corporate tenant’s side, the company’s focus on business decision making was the order of the day. The company made and received monetary proposals dispassionately and analytically.

On the individual landlord’s side, by contrast, strong personal emotions, and a cross cultural perspective, permeated the discussion and sometimes distracted the lessor from the exchange of offers and counteroffers.

At one point, in a private caucus, I heard all about the emotional, personal and financial stake of the lessor who had put her heart and soul into her investment in the building at issue. The building meant everything to her.

In the other room, to help explain the challenges I was facing, I told the room full of lawyers from the national corporate tenant about this emotional component.

Among other things, I explained that the lessor is extremely frustrated by the tenant’s multi-year lack of attention to the open issues concerning the building, and that the tenant is thus insulted and hurt given the multi-faceted relationships of the parties.

Spontaneously and sincerely, the corporate General Counsel in the room apologized and said that this was not the way that the company should have been conducting business.

I asked him if he would be willing to say this directly to the lessor. He said he could, although it turned out not to be necessary.

Along with a compromise financial offer, I took this heartfelt apology to the lessor’s room and communicated it with as much meaning as I could muster and added that the General Counsel hoped the apology would be accepted.

It was.

The lessor explained to me that she would now accept the compromise proposal being made because: (1) she recognized the voluntariness and sincerity of counsel’s apology; (2) she recognized that the apology of the attorney was in fact the apology of the company; and (3) she recognized that both sides respected and wanted to protect the longstanding relationship of the parties.

There are some who think that business disputes are just about business.

I don’t agree. There’s always more to it than that.

***

David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website is at http://karpmediation.com .

Announcement — Affiliation with the Valley Bar Mediation Center

As announced on the News-Diary Page of his website, at http://karpmediation.com/News-Diary.html ,” David I. Karp is delighted to announce that, to assist the public in learning more about mediation, and to augment his continuing private and independent mediation practice, he is now on the mediation panel of the Valley Bar Mediation Center.”

A related Press Release is available at http://karpmediation.com/resources/pressrelease20150107.pdf

***

David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California.  His website is at http://karpmediation.com .

Taking a Break and Getting Ready for the New Year

I was all set for a busy December with a full calendar and lots to do, then things changed.

One mediation cancelled because the parties settled prior to mediation. That was good for them.

Another postponed because of weather. OK, that made sense.

Yet another postponed because a lawyer received a Notice of Trial for the date of the mediation. Yes, of course.

Others then chose dates in January rather than December.

You get the picture.

Suddenly, ample free time became available to me, particularly in the last two weeks of the month.

So, coincident with the holidays (and with everyone else on vacation it seemed), I took a break.

Actually, it’s been great – sleeping in, reading a book, doing some writing, getting some chores done around the house, taking the car in for service, getting a haircut, going to the movies and out to dinner, entertaining friends and family at home, not checking email so much, doing some deferred computer maintenance, enjoying daily living and not feeling so busy after all.

In other words, I had a good rest from work.

The best part of this time has been sharing these break periods with my wife. It reminds my why we’re together all these years.

Sometimes, we push ourselves to get busy or to keep busy or to conduct business or to promote business.

Sometimes, this adds up to all the time.

And we don’t think about the pace, which can be frantic.

On the other hand, it’s also really good to let go for awhile and just relax.

That’s what I did and what I recommend.

Thus, as January looms, I’m ready again for a new year of challenging mediations and exciting times.

And, from your fully rested, optimistic and happy mediator, friend and colleague, let me wish you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year… and thus a new year of challenging opportunities and exciting times for you as well.

***

David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website is at http://karpmediation.com .

The Light of Understanding

Tonight, for the eighth night of Chanukah (the Festival of Lights), we will light all nine of the candles of our Chanukiah (candelabrum).

It is a beautiful sight.

The flames dance and the room glows.

A week ago, Chanukah began and there were the fewest candles (two).

Successively we added one more candle each evening, and consequently, there was more light as time passed.

I am not the first person to equate light with understanding.

Nevertheless, I do see the metaphor, particularly but not only as it relates to mediation.

For, in mediation, understanding one another is the key to success, particularly vis-à-vis understanding the needs and interests and the priorities belonging to each person in the negotiation.

And, as the mediation progresses, so does understanding increase – the same metaphorically as with the candles of Chanukah – particularly as people communicate and exchange their ideas with one another.

The light at the end of the mediation thus burns brightly with the insight that results from this exchange; and, with the negotiation concluded, the faces of the participants glow with the satisfaction of having ended their dispute and having achieved peace.

It is a beautiful sight.

That’s all I want to say today.

***

David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website it at http://karpmediation.com .

Sharing Personal Stories

I like to share personal stories in mediation.

A lawyer the other day remarked that he liked this personal touch very much and he thought that it really helped.

Sometimes, just to break the ice, I talk about my children, of whom I am very proud.

Sometimes I speak of family history in order to emphasize some similarity between the story in mind and the conflict at hand.

(In case you didn’t know, every family has conflict at one time or another.)

Thus, when I need to deliver a message to a disputant, often it can be couched more diplomatically in the stories I tell.

Sometimes, the stories create reciprocity. Let me tell you what I mean.

In mediation, people I have never met before may be called upon to tell me very personal things they would not ordinarily tell a stranger.

If I tell them something personal, often it opens the door to them telling me something personal.

This, more intimate, communication helps us to get to the heart of the matter, so to speak.

Sometimes, just to help create a connection, I speak of my wife’s genealogy hobby in which she is totally consumed and from which she is finding terrific tidbits from the past.

So, when I speak for instance of where one part of the family, or another, originated, sometimes I generate a whole conversation that helps connect us geographically and/or culturally.

I have yet to be able to speak about my ancestor, Arthur Welsh, on my maternal grandfather’s line, who was the first American Jewish Aviator. See, http://www.jhsgw.org/exhibitions/online/arthurwelsh/ .

It’s a fascinating story, and I’ll find a way yet to make it useful.

(Or maybe I just did.)

***

David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website is at http://karpmediation.com .

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