Max Lucado/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Recognize the name Max Lucado? I didn’t either before day. But he is an author, clergyman and believer in the human capacity to achieve and to grow in life. Here are two quotes, both of them in the spirit of Win-Win and mediation process:

“Conflict is inevitable but combat is optional”
It is wise to recognize that conflict with others is inevitable in life. But why make it a case for WW III? We do not always choose to be in conflict, but we surely can choose NOT to be in combat with others.

“Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner.”
It sometimes feels way too sweet to carry a grudge or blame another for adversity. However, remember who pays the price for those feelings. Learn how to set yourself free from painful conflicts and confrontation.

Mediate don’t litigate.

Conflict:Is it Worth It?/Martin Rosenfeld

A Harvard Professor by the name of Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar wrote a popular book on happiness. The book, based on a successful course Dr. Ben-Shahar taught at Harvard, is entitled “Happier”. This book is a wonderful read and offers the reader much to ponder. At the end of the chapters, the author provides an exercise to engage the reader. Towards the book’s end, Dr. Ben-Shahar has this to say: “Think of a conflict, major minor, that you have with another person…In writing, elaborate on the price that you and the other party are paying in the ultimate current. (Note: The author refers to happiness as the ultimate currency. MR) Is the price worth it?

For those involved in divorce disputes, commercial disputes, employment disputes, etc., you would do well to ask yourself this question: Is it worth it? Life is short and uncertain as we all now feel in the most dramatic way. Is living with rancor and confrontation worth it? Is litigation the best way? Once again, the answer seems clear…mediate don’t litigate.

Advice for a New Decade/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

In Stephen Covey’s work, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, he lists this as Habit #3:

“Broken focus is the number one reason people fail. It’s not enough to start off on the right track; you must successfully avoid the unnecessary distractions and attractions of life that aim to sidetrack you… The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

Mr. Covey did not write Habit#3 with mediation in mind. But for those who enter into a mediator, or who guide its process,it is crucial to “keep the main thing the main thing”. Good advice for the new decade and all those that follow.

Expressed Feelings/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

The Program of Negotiation/Harvard University, published a post by Kathy Shonk, on December 12, 2019, entitled “Four Ways to Manage Conflict in the Workplace”. Specifically, the discussion included a treatment on the expression of emotions. Is it OK to express feelings of e.g disappointment, anger, hurt, etc. The answer to this question is in the affirmative. What can such expression accomplish?

*Expression of feelings is cathartic. It allows a party to be more comfortable with the ensuing discussion. The cards are now on the table.
*By being free with emotions, a party is seen in a more human context. They are no longer the enemy, but a party who feels aggrieved.
*Emotional release may lead to more frank discussion. It may encourage a reciprocal catharsis.
*Remember the maxim, never judge a person until you walk a mile in their moccasins. Free expression cal lead to greater understanding.

Mea Culpa/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Many commentators have opined that the failure of President Nixon to admit the errors of his ways, led to his vacating the office. President Trump too has an inability to admit to wrongful acts. This likely underlies his Impeachment Hearing. In a mediation, feel free to acknowledge mistakes and to engage in apologetic words, if called for. It is refreshing for people to take such an adult path. It often is the best way to resolve longstanding disputes. It is well worth the effort. To err is human, but to take responsibility for this is Divine. Mediate don’t litigate.

Listening for Meaning/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

There has been much speculation about the Trump letter to Erdogan that was devoid of ant political nicety. In effect it said, “Don’t invade Syria or you will be deemed a fool”. What was the thought process of our President? Some have suggested that the president works with “mirror image” thinking. If I think this way, then surely the Erdogan thought process is similar.

In mediations or negotiations, we assume that certain behavior from our opposing number is based on reasons that are clear to us. But perhaps we are wrong? A better way of proceeding is to listen carefully to what the parties say and how they say it. If that gives us no clue, why not be direct? For example, you might say “I believe you have done X for reason Y. If that is not so, please correct me.” It is worth a try and it certainly beats “mirror image” thinking. Mediate don’t litigate.

Winners and Losers/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Konrad Adenauer was the first Chancellor of what became West Germany. In his long life, Adenauer’s commitment to Germany as a statesman, led to much acclaim. In a public television poll in in 2003, Mr. Adenauer was selected as the greatest German of all time. He was famous for this one quote “We all live under the same sky, but we don’t have the same horizon.”

Why is this mediation post discussing Konrad Adenauer? The answer lies in a column written for the WSJ by Walter Russell Mead on May 21, 2019. (“Palestinians Need to Get Real About Israel”.) Mr. Mead maintains that perhaps it is not a two-State solution that Israel and the Palestinians need but rather a “one state solution”. The author then makes this assertion about the Palestinians:”They need a Konrad Adenauer: a leader who can accept military defeat and painful territorial losses while building a prosperous future through reconciliation with the victors.”

WWhether one agrees with Mr. Mead or not, his statement packs a punch in the context of dispute resolution. We do not always emerge from “battle” with victory. At times, our losses are painful. But to overcome defeat, we must first learn to deal with it. I recently saw a quote to the effect that if we seek to destroy our adversary and attain revenge, we need to dig two graves rather than one. There are losses in life and losses at the bargaining table. At times the justice we crave nevertheless eludes us. Reconciliation with our opponent is not always a possibility. But perhaps in the course of the mediation process we can learn to accept what has befallen us and then make the effort to overcome and move on. Who wants to dig a grave for themself?

Civility in Communicating/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

The Program on Negotiation (PON) of Harvard University, published an article (September 20, 2018) entitled “The Pitfalls of Negotiating Over Email”. We probably know intuitively that Email is not a perfect communication vehicle. The post discusses some of its weaknesses. It is difficult to read a statement on paper, and determine if the writer is serious, joking, angry, sarcastic, etc. The tonal aspect is missing in an Email. A person learns much from trying to read the body language and non-verbal communication of another party. Email makes this an impossibility. Certain comments may unintentionally come across as curt or impolite in an Email due to the informality we bestow on such communication. You can establish rapport with another, even an adversary, when the party is present. Rapport with an Email is a non-event.

President Lyndon Johnson liked to talk about meeting people and “pressing the flesh”. A negotiation via Email is lacking in the human touch. The conclusion seems to be this: If something is important, say it in person. Leave the social media to the nation’s politicians. Mediate/negotiate; don’t litigate.

Do We Always Know What We Want?/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

People sometimes express what they think they want. But the expression of a position they hold dear is not necessarily an indication of the interest they may have. We know this in mediation theory as positions v. interests. Want to learn more? Here is a brief discussion on this concept by Martin Rosenfeld.

Thinking Outside the Box/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

A.J. Baime of the Wall Street Journal recently wrote about a creative problem to a seemingly knotty dilemma.(“He Had a Will to Win Back His Classic MG”/May 22, 2019). Bruce MacCormack is 81 years old. In 2003, he sold his 1971 British-built MGB to Chet Kenoyer, age 64. In 2012, Mr. MacCormack missed owning the car in question, (a delayed example of seller’s remorse!) and called Mr. Kenoyer about buying back the car for the sales price that had been established 9 years earlier. In addition, the car would be left to Mr. Kenoyer in the will of Mr. MacCormack. Mr. Kenoyer said he would consider the offer, as he apparently did not drive the car too frequently. A few days later, Mr. Kenoyer received a check for the car (the original sales price of $9000), and a copy of the will containing language that he was to inherit the car upon Mr. MacCormack’s death. To sweeten the deal even further, Mr. Kenoyer has been told he might drive the car anytime he so chose. The parties are both quite happy, it seems, as to the manner in which they attained Win-Win.

When parties face an impasse, there are often a number of solutions to help them get to an accord. Sometimes the options are discovered by creative means. In mediations, as in negotiations, always be prepared to think outside of the box. Even a case of seller’s remorse can have an ending that suits both parties quite well. All you need is good-faith and a dose of creativity. Mediate don’t litigate.