Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Make No Assumptions

There is some logic to wearing a mask when you are about to commit a crime:  you don't want to reveal your true face.  We all wear masks from one time to the next.  I appear different when I'm at the gym than at the office and even differently when I'm arbitrating a case than doing case follow ups by phone.  As a mediator or a litigator, it's important to remember that every individual is unique and may defy your expectations of their characteristics.  For example, a very young woman with a soft voice may be very powerful in the context of her family-owned business, or an elderly, frail looking man may be one of those "Super Agers" who has unbelievably accurate recall of facts and events that may exceed his lawyer and paralegals put together!  A banker may be less facile with numbers than with literature and a school teacher may be defiant about learning lessons.  Mediation works best when we indulge every participant in a genuine interview designed to understand what lies beneath the mask that they may have donned for the hearing.  Once we determine the critical driving factors, very often the dispute can be resolved with less pain and shame than the masked hold up that it sometimes appears to be.
     May this New Year, for those who observe Rosh Hashanah, bring a renewed commitment to treat every individual as unique and valuable, without pre-judgment.  L'Shana Tova.