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Making Very Difficult Decisions

April 5, 2016

Imagine a heart patient who does not know she is one. She does not like doctors, hospitals, medicines, invasive procedures, surgery, or the like. She wants no part of any of it, none whatsoever, not under any circumstances. She never did.

Suddenly, with disturbing chest pain, she faces all of it.

Reluctantly she sees her doctor and is given a few increasingly drastic choices: ignore everything and see what happens; try medicine only; have a noninvasive stress test that may prove inconclusive; or have an invasive but definitive angiogram.

For her, this is like going down the rabbit hole and she doesn’t like it one bit.

Consulting a cardiologist, she takes in as much information as she can about the risks, benefits, choices, and possible outcomes, and…

Overcoming her own resistance, she relents and grudgingly chooses the invasive angiogram recommended by her doctor, which turns out to be the right move.

Although in her best interests, it’s precisely what she never wanted at all.

And it was an extraordinarily difficult decision for her to make precisely for that reason.

In the mediation of litigated cases, people face very difficult decisions as well, although maybe not so drastic as the foregoing.

They may arrive thinking that they never will settle. They see only one course of action – they must fight to win — because they are certain they will win.

But their minds can change, as did the heart patient’s, with sufficient information about the costs, risks, and uncertainties of litigation, as well as the benefits, choices and possibilities of settlement, including ending the dispute and finding peace.

Getting good legal advice from one’s attorney helps with deciding what to do.

Actually listening to and learning of the perspectives of all other participants, including the other side, does so as well.

And exploring with the mediator the interests, needs and priorities of all concerned often tips the balance toward a negotiated outcome that may not be exactly what was desired but is nevertheless in the best interests of the settling parties.

And so it is with making very difficult decisions in mediation: the choices may be hard or unappealing (as in the heart patient’s scenario) but being open to changing one’s view, when faced with new input from others, may be beneficial for one’s future and peace of mind.


David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes. His website is at .


From → Mediation

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