Welcome back! Today’s Mediation Minute topic is: biggest gripes in mediation. At the beginning of every mediation, we ask, what is your biggest gripe in mediation? And we do that for two reasons. One: it kind of cracks the ice open a little bit about what’s going to happen, and also it helps with understanding where someone’s issues might arise over the course of mediation. The two biggest answers we get are:

  1. How long it takes
  2. Unrealistic expectations from the other side.

So let’s talk about these.


First gripe in mediation: it takes a lot of time

In terms of time, everybody wants to cut to the chase. It’s one of the biggest gripes in mediation we see. The issue is this: nobody wants to feel like they made a worse deal than they could have. If you are a plaintiff, you don’t want to feel like you settled for one penny less than you could have gotten, and if you’re a defendant, you don’t want to feel like you paid one penny more than you needed to. So that drives people to slow it down.

Here’s an easy way to understand that. Imagine you’re going to buy a car. You’re at the dealership, you find the car you like, and they’re asking, say, forty thousand dollars. You go to the salesperson and say, “I’ll give you thirty-seven thousand dollars.” And instantly they say, “Deal!”

What’s your first thought? Probably could have gotten it for less. So that’s why people tend to start at extremes and start moving toward the middle slowly. So that way, at least in the end, psychologically, they feel they got the best deal they could have. Obviously, if it becomes apparent that there’s some overlap, we’ll move you there as fast as possible so we aren’t wasting time, but each side is going to need to feel like they did the best they could.

The second gripe in mediation: what are the other side’s unrealistic expectations?

Now, what’s realistic, what’s fair, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So there’s a lot of subjectivity in that, but when you’re talking to your clients beforehand, and you ask them, “Where are you looking to settle this at?” Whatever they say, ask them this question–not why–but “how do you get there?” “What makes you come up with that amount?” And then listen to what they have to say because that’s going to tell you a lot.

Do they have somebody whispering in their ear that they should get “X dollars”, have they settled similar cases for less money recently… whatever it is, you can then say, “Well, here’s what’s different about this case,” or, “here’s what we might want to consider.” And remind them, one of my favorite lines with my old clients is, it would be very easy for me to blow smoke at you, and I wouldn’t be doing my job. I don’t think I ever had a client get upset at that, even if they don’t necessarily like what I was telling them, but that way you help set their expectations so that when you’re in mediation, they’re not thinking that they’re going to get a zillion dollars for a scratch, and they’re not thinking that they are going to get out of this case for pennies when someone’s been significantly hurt or has a lot of damage, or whatever the issue happens to be.

So, hopefully, those help you out, and again, look forward to seeing you soon. Thank you for your time, and if you are looking to book your next mediation, head over to our online calendar and schedule your slot.