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When People Don’t Hear or Listen

August 22, 2011

I have read elsewhere that, in mediation, people in conflict do not hear/listen/pay attention to matters or ideas that are contrary to their view of their case or their dispute.  Not only do I believe this intuitively, I have seen this occur, even recently.

In one mediation recently, and as always, the plaintiff felt that she was harmed in a significant way.  She felt justified in demanding the money that she believes represents that harm.

However she did not, or would not, hear why she might choose to settle the case for a different sum.

As happens sometimes, particularly in evaluative sessions, the plaintiff’s attorney had a different view of the case from that of the mediator.

Further, as happens more often in our recessive economy, the defendant claimed that he hadn’t the money to respond to the plaintiff’s demand even if (but without conceding whether) the plaintiff had a good claim.

These were important messages for the plaintiff.  However, they were not heard or acknowledged.  Instead, she plowed ahead with unrealistic demands and irrational moves.  Perhaps she was looking for Justice with a capital “J.” (Query whether there is such a thing.)

The bottom line is that people will hear what they want to hear and will act as they choose to act.  It is not for the mediator to judge them.  That is the blessing (or the curse) of self-determination in mediation.

Here the plaintiff chose to move forward with the litigation.  The possibility of winning (however remote) was more inviting than the certainty of a lesser sum.

But that was her choice and it must be respected.

One observation however:  As the economy declines, or continues to decline, it is harder for people to settle.  There are too few dollars available.  Either the plaintiffs cannot concede because they really need the money.  Or the defendants cannot offer enough because they really need to conserve resources.  But that’s for another Post on another day.

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From → Mediation

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