Sunday, March 9, 2008

Stupid Mediator Tricks

David Letterman uses stupid pet tricks on his show. I have been thinking that some of the mediation tactics I have been using amount to "stupid mediator tricks," in the sense that like Dave's pet tricks, sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. Here's my stupid mediator trick with respect to opening statements.

Parties generally like to open with opening statements, so I let them do it. It lets each party have its say, it gets things going with a statement, whether clear or not, of the nature of the claim and how the parties see things differently, and it is a way for each party to start to listen and hear each other....or not.

I find that too often, each party is too impressed with the need to get its point of view out there, and not impressed enough with the need to hear what the other party is saying. So, I tell each party before they proceed with their openings that I want them to take out a piece of paper, listen to the other party's opening statement, and write down the most important thing that they think the other party is trying to communicate, and whether they heard anything new. I have each party exchange their reactions to the opening statements after the openings are made. Then I ask each party whether the other party gets it.

It is an exercise in listening appended to an act, the opening statement, which is too often viewed as an exercise in speaking only.


Diane Levin said...

Christian, there's nothing stupid about this trick! It's a great idea. Thanks for passing it along to your readers.

I'm really enjoying your blog -- keep these insights straight from the mediation table coming.


Marvin Schuldiner said...

Here's another related trick I've used in the past. I've had parties tell me they know all about the other side's position and all the facts in the case. I said, well if that's the case then, why don't you make the OTHER SIDE's opening statement for them; make their case for them. Needless to say, this opens up some interesting lines of discussion as you find out how much they each really know about the other side's position and how it changes their own position when their opponent's words come out of their own mouths.