I recently had the pleasure of helping an injured woman and a business bring an end to their lawsuit. At first glance, it did not appear as though the parties were interested in settling the case. The woman felt angry that the business had never acknowledged her complaints. The business feared that the woman exaggerated her claim.
Yet, the case settled. I asked myself what magic happened in that mediation that allowed the parties to reach a compromise. In part, I believe it was because the parties came to the mediation prepared and with an open mind.
Lawsuits do not erupt in a vacuum: both parties usually have legitimate reasons for not settling their disputes. But, without meeting and hearing the other party’s perspective, the parties dwell on their own case’s merits without having to face the other party’s side of the story. Without an intermediary (usually a trained mediator), the emotional baggage associated with each party’s version of the events often prevents them from listening to the other side with an open mind.
As the mediator, I come prepared. I spend whatever time it takes to understand the parties’ dispute, and I read everything that the parties send to me. Having this information before mediation helps me brainstorm potential issues and solutions before the parties arrive. If the parties come to the mediation with an open mind, they will hear what the other side will say to the judge or jury if the case is not settled. The parties may even think about the case in a slightly different light after the process of mediation.
And, resolving a dispute on your own terms is powerful.