Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Value of a Good Faith Gesture in mediation

This week I learned something from a friend and colleague, Steve Rottman, who, more often than I do, mediates at the lawyer's offices.  He sets up the condition that whoever has the convenience of holding the hearing in their office must pay for lunch and parking for all parties.
When I arrived at the Defense counsel's very elegant offices this week, I tried this out.  Though this had not occurred to the young associate before I arrived, he reluctantly agreed to bring in sandwiches and salads at noon for all participant's at his client's expense.
As most mediators know, the negotiation seldom begins significantly before noon, so the timing could not have been better.  Miraculously, the Plaintiff reduced her demand by $25,000. when the lovely, catered salad arrived.  She was hungry and hurting, and this put the first smile on her face that I had seen that day.  Then, when the very difficult moment came when the parties were down to the last $5,000 in the negotiation, the receptionist was leaving the  office for the day,  and (at my suggestion) asked to collect the Plaintiff and her attorney's parking cards, so she could validate the day's parking.
Voila, the case was settled in the very next move.
Sometimes, a very small gesture of good faith (in this case probably a total investment of $100.00) can go a long way towards signaling cooperativeness and indeed, gaining cooperation towards resolving a contentious dispute.
In what ways do you value and encourage these gestures of good faith?