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Alternative Facts in Mediation

January 23, 2017

This weekend, in the news, we learned about “alternative facts” when the new President’s adviser tried to explain alleged falsehoods given by the new Press Secretary for the President.

CNN reported: “White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s false claims about the size of the crowd at President Donald Trump’s inauguration were ‘alternative facts,’ a top Trump aide said Sunday.”


In mediation, opposing parties often tell different stories about the same incident or occurrence.

Often one party calls the other “a liar” in this context.

I never like that label, although sometimes it may be fitting.

Nevertheless, I refer to these competing views of the same things as “different truths” which are based upon people’s own perceptions of themselves, the event, the other person, and the causes and consequences of what happened or did not happen.

Often people don’t lie deliberately; they just see things differently.

As a mediator, I tell people that, out of respect for both sides, I will accept different truths as truths on both sides because, in mediation, it is not the “truth” in the ultimate sense of the word that matters.  Rather, it is the “perception of the truth” which is important to the person who proffers it and to the one who hears it.

When perceptions of the truth conflict, the judge or jury will have to sort out the real truth (the emes in Yiddish) if the matter comes to trial.

On the other hand, I tell people, it is the risk that you won’t be believed, and that the other side will be believed, that you must consider when trying to resolve the dispute, for mediation is the place to manage risk.

This does not excuse falsehoods or patent untruths; it simply allows disputants to move past them to resolve their disputes if they can.

On the other hand, it is inexcusable when a new administration proffers the label, “alternative facts,” to minimize easily disproved falsehoods that come from a President and White House press secretary.

There is no getting past that.


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


From → Mediation

One Comment
  1. A good read on how we all see differently, some see 6 and others 9. As to risk, it must be weighed with the Best Alternative in the situation.

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