The Mediation that Transformed the Conflict.
Anger. Resentment. Callousness. Distrust. Indifference. Hard feelings all around.
Although they had been friends for many, many years, they were not speaking to one other at all at their mutual workplace.
The business relationship of a few years had broken down and their personal friendship of many more years had fallen apart.
Both were suffering under the weight of their conflict.
To avoid imminent litigation, they agreed, although skeptically, to participate in mediation to see how they could end their business partnership with the least harm.
After brief private introductions with each, the mediation began with everyone together for a joint session.
The disputants were given choices on how they would like to proceed and what they would like to discuss.
They chose to stay together for awhile.
Actually, they ended up staying together for the entire session.
With guidance from counsel, the disputants began to explore alternative business solutions for their predicament (examples are wind up and dissolution, sale, buyout, etc.)
Ultimately, they agreed, together, on the most palatable way for both to end their business relationship, and they discussed and agreed on the details.
In the course of the discussion, as mediator, I checked in with each in the presence of the other, to restate, to clarify, to question the meaning of something said, and ultimately to lead to a deeper mutual understanding of both the problems they faced and the solutions they were choosing.
Along the way, a deeper conversation began between them. Difficult things to say were being said. Difficult things to hear were being heard.
With mutual respect, there was no anger or defensiveness. Instead, there was acknowledgment and even some apology and forgiveness.
As mediator, with sensitivity for what was occurring and with courage, I remained silent (actually for a long time) as this was their mediation, not mine.
The conversation had transformed into that amazing heart to heart communication that only comes from the careful orchestration of the mediation and the mutuality of the moment.
A fresh start for these two disputants was well underway as the settlement agreement was being drafted by counsel: the jocularity of their longstanding friendship had returned, the creases on their foreheads had smoothed out, and they were again mostly at ease with one another.
The anger, resentment, callousness, distrust, indifference, and hard feelings had dissipated.
In their place was the warmth of their past shared experiences, the satisfaction of their present resolution, and their own hope for a better future, for each other and for themselves.
It was a transformative mediation for them, and for all who participated.
David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website is at http://karpmediation.com . He apologizes for any ads affixed to this post by wordpress.com; they are not his.