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They Did Not See Eye to Eye.

December 10, 2016

I looked up the idiom “seeing eye to eye” and found this today:

“Agree completely, as in I’m so glad we see eye to eye on whom we should pick for department head. This expression appears in the Bible (Isaiah 52:8).”

See, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. (2003, 1997). Retrieved December 10 2016 from

I also looked up its opposite:

“The phrase ‘see eye to eye’ is used to mean when two people or two parties agree when it comes to a certain topic. But, the phrase is often used as ‘we didn’t see eye to eye’ or ‘they couldn’t see eye to eye,’ in which case it means something about how two people or parties could not come to agreement on a specific topic, or they just couldn’t agree in very general terms because they didn’t like one another.”


In a recent mediation, which ended without agreement, the parties did not see eye to eye, perhaps because they did not see each other, at all.

That is, one side simply would not agree to meet in person with the other side, to hear or consider the latter’s personal views on the subject of their disagreement.

Perhaps this decision not to meet together – for an opportunity to listen and learn – protected this one side from certain contradictory information which might have impacted its position.

In Cognitive Barriers To Success In Mediation: Irrational Attachments To Positions And Other Errors Of Perception That Impact Settlement Decisions, available at , the authors, Bennett G. Picker and Gregg Relyea, refer to this phenomenon in at least three ways:

Cognitive Dissonance. This bias refers to the fact that it is psychologically uncomfortable for most people to consider data that contradicts their viewpoint. Disputants and their attorneys tend to resolve conflicting information by justifying their own conduct, blaming others, and denying, downplaying, or ignoring the existence of conflicting data.

Assimilation Bias. The tendency of individuals to see or hear only that information that favors their position is called “assimilation bias.” Victims of assimilation bias behave as if adverse information was never presented to them.

Inattentional Blindness. We tend to see/hear only that which we are focused on…. Similarly, many parties and their counsel fail to see and assess the “big picture” (e.g., overall case value, themes of a case, jury appeal factors, witness appearance) because they are focusing sharply on other specific points.

But what if, in addition to the private caucuses of the day, the parties had come together for a person to person exchange of information and ideas?

Both sides might have learned something new about the conflict, and perhaps they may even have found a way to resolve it.

But they chose not to come together, which is their right inasmuch as it is their mediation.

Consequently, they did not see eye to eye perhaps because they would not.

And thus, an opportunity may have been missed.


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


From → Mediation

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