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Finding Ways to Accommodate One Another

In mediation, people do find ways to accommodate the needs and interests of one another in order to resolve their disputes.

To prompt this occurrence, I often say that “one has to give up something to get something.”

A simplified example would be that in order to agree on a larger sum to be received, one might have to agree to a payment schedule that allows the payor to manage the expense over time.

There are other accommodations to be made in mediation which have nothing to do with the settlement agreement to be negotiated.

These are personal accommodations.

As I write this, I am thinking of a recent mediation in which one of the participants needed accommodation for her wheelchair.

To make room, other participants willingly and generously moved obstacles from the conference room, including chairs, boxes and other things.

In another mediation, one party brought cookies. Maybe it was a peace offering.

I have often given facial tissues, or excused a person to get some fresh air, when I have perceived that someone is visibly upset and needed some emotional space.

People have accommodated me, as well, when I have had to change a hearing aid battery in the midst of a significant conversation.

Thankfully, there is an underlying generosity and kindness in all of us, even under the most intense of circumstances, as in mediation.

It is a welcome sight when even ardent opponents find ways to accommodate one another on a personal level.

Ultimately, too, it helps to encourage peacemaking in the mediation.

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

Guided Dialogue Helps

I just read a piece on the website of KPCC entitled LAPD mediation program for residents and cops creates better understanding – when they show up.

The article was striking for two points made by the author:

1. “Most of the time, either the officer or resident had no interest in meeting with each other.”

2. “But when the angry resident meets with the man or woman who wears a badge, mediation appears to work.”

In the mediations I conduct, I often say that my role is not to decide who is right and who is wrong in the dispute; rather, my role is to help manage a conversation in which the participants help themselves to make an informed decision as to a resolution once they understand more about themselves, each other, the predicaments they face, and possible solutions.

It is amazing what can happen when both sides, with the help of a mediator, listen to one another and engage in a nonjudgmental dialogue, directly or indirectly, that helps them understand one another better.

The author of the KPCC piece said as much:

Of 185 survey responses, 155 participants were either satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the process, according to the LAPD report. And two-thirds of the officers and residents who participated said their understanding of the other party increased after mediation. [Emphasis added.]

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

Alternative Facts in Mediation

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.”

See, http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/22/politics/kellyanne-conway-alternative-facts/index.html

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.

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

Mediations Are like Crossword Puzzles.

I love mediation and I love crossword puzzles. To me, they are very much alike.  In both:

• We bring our prior knowledge and experiences to bear.

• Focus is usually required.

• There are many clues that lead to a solution.

• Some things we already know and we can fill in the blanks.

• Some clues can be obscure and one must really think.

• Some clues may never be understood.

• It takes time to find the solution.

• Sometimes the answers are readily apparent.

• Sometimes the answers are frustratingly difficult and hard to grasp.

• Sometimes the first answer is not the best answer and one must try again.

• Sometimes one has to fill in the spaces around the missing answers in order to figure them out.

• The answers always intersect.

• The greater the number of people at work on the solution, the greater the likelihood of success.

• Sometimes one must leave it for later.

• It is always worth it to return and try again.

• If this one doesn’t work out, there’s always another.

• When the solution is complete, it feels great.

• It’s also okay if most or even part of the puzzle is solved, if that’s the best one can do at the time.

Before I start a mediation I nearly always work on a crossword puzzle first. I also carry several with me in my briefcase.  Feel free to ask if you’d like to try one too.

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

An Alliance of Hope

These are the [translated] words of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, standing with President Obama at Pearl Harbor yesterday:

“Ours is an ‘alliance of hope’ that will lead us to the future.

“What has bonded us together is the power of reconciliation, made possible through the spirit of tolerance.”

See, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/27/world/asia/shinzo-abe-text-pearl-harbor.html?_r=0

These are powerful words, magnificent and magnanimous.

As a mediator, I see a lesson here for any one still harboring ill will, for something that someone did or failed to do that led to conflict, whether in a mediation session or in life.

Although there was no formal apology, these are words of heartfelt forgiveness for the past and hope for the future.

In his speech, Prime Minister Abe also said:

Japan and the United States, which have eradicated hatred and cultivated friendship and trust on the basis of common values, are now, and especially now, taking responsibility for appealing to the world about the importance of tolerance and the power of reconciliation.

That is precisely why the Japan-U.S. alliance is “an alliance of hope.”

Let there be an alliance of hope in the New Year for each of us, professionally and personally, as we take responsibility for our thoughts and actions and as we go forward to wrestle with and conquer the conflicts that keep people apart.

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David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website is http://karpmediation.com .

A Story about Guillermo

Last night was the first night of Chanukah and also Christmas Eve. For various reasons including illnesses in the family, my wife and I ate dinner at a local restaurant that we frequent.

Guillermo (not his real name) was there. He has been a busboy at that restaurant for many years.

In my mind, the term “busboy” is demeaning, especially for a person like Guillermo who is perhaps in his 40s or 50s.

But I suppose “busboy” is the job description for such an unskilled laborer who assists the waiters, clears the dishes and cleans and sets the tables.

It is likely a minimum wage job.

I do not know much about Guillermo except that I know he works at several restaurants and has two or three jobs concurrently to support himself and his family. I have seen him elsewhere.

I do not know his immigration status and it is none of my business, although I certainly fear for him now that things have changed politically.

Guillermo is one of the hardest workers I have ever come across. He is quick, efficient and diligent, respectful of customers, and so industrious and dedicated to his job.

At the end of the meal, I approached Guillermo privately, as I have done in past Decembers, and discreetly handed him some cash, wishing him a Merry Christmas.

“I always appreciate how hard you work,” I said to him.

I received a huge smile and a warm embrace in return.

In Wikipedia, the concept of dignity expresses “the idea that a being has an innate right to be valued, respected, and to receive ethical treatment.” See, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dignity

I suppose that is the moral of this story.

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

They Did Not See Eye to Eye.

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 http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/see+eye+to+eye

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.”

See, http://www.programmerinterview.com/index.php/american-vocabulary/see-eye-to-eye-meaning/

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 http://www.mediate.com//articles/PR_CognitiveBarriers.cfm , 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.

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

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