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Some people can only listen to themselves.

September 16, 2014

I am thinking of two mediations in which one matter settled and the other did not.

They were strikingly similar because of their context (both were real estate mediations involving Buyers and Sellers) and because of their timing (pre-litigation).  Also, although the legal issues in both were not the same, they were straightforward and were typical of disputes within residential purchase and sale transactions.

The mediations were starkly different however because of the way in which the disputants and their lawyers conducted themselves.

In the dispute that settled, both sides were receptive to listening and hearing about other side’s viewpoint, not to agree with it or to be persuaded by it, but to learn about and to understand the other side’s perspective.

For it is always a person’s perception that guides his or her negotiation.

In the dispute that did not settle, some of the people only listened to themselves.

Despite all efforts, they did not listen, did not hear, did not learn from and did not understand the other side, at all.

They did not want to listen to the other side and were not willing to go there.

They only heard themselves.

I read one of those platitudes the other day that floats around on Facebook.  It was attributed to Frank Zappa and went like this:

The mind is like a parachute; it only works if it is open.

I think he was right, and I saw the results in both mediations.

The one in which people really listened came to a safe landing.

The other crashed.


David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. For more information, please go to his website at .


From → Mediation

  1. Paul S permalink

    This is so very true. Having the right mindset entering into the mediation process is crucial to success. Unfortunately the CAR purchase contract encourages mediation by mandating it be tried otherwise the parties would fail to obtain legal fees in any other process. This can leave some participants with the impression that they can sit through mediation and then sue and that this is some odd position of strength. This attitude makes the mediator’s role tough to say the least.

  2. Theresa Carter-Mata permalink

    This quite interesting and I believe right on target with how we listen today, the best of times and the worst of times. This link has the science of this from Phyllis Pollack…

    • I read Phyllis’ piece and am greatly amused by the word, “duologue.” Thanks for the comment, and for tying this together.

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