20/20 Hindsight: Lessons on conflict resolution from the home for the aging Lesson #3: Holding a grudge will only shorten your life





Readers will recall that last year's newsletter was a series of "Life Lessons" as observed through the eyes of the next generation, my granddaughter.  Like "My Mother's Legacy" (the theme of 2017's Newsletter), these were lessons that have served me well as I apply them to my mediation practice. This year, I'm happy to share with you some of the wisdom and lessons I learn from the elderly residents who reside with my father in the Home for the Aging.  Hopefully, you will savor their wise advice and learn from them just as I do each time I visit there.

People engage lawyers, and lawyers file lawsuits, when they've been wronged by someone and can't get relief that they feel they deserve.  Very often, even after months or years of legal "pleadings" and "formal discovery", the individuals aggrieved have never fully expressed their anger, sadness, fears or remorse directly to anyone.  Their depositions may have been taken, but were not designed to give them an emotional outlet.  Their trials may be set, but typically they are discouraged from expressing how things made them feel so much as sticking to the facts and evidence that supports their legal claims.  Mediation is the perfect opportunity for folks to express their deep-seated emotions and get it all "on the table" before they let go of the dispute.

Timing is always an issue in mediation, but if you allow the mediator or if you can give your client a chance to be truly heard and their emotions acknowledged and validated, you will free their minds to get to a more rational decision.  It takes some extra time and care, but in the end may be the only way that participants in deep distress can get to a logical analysis in the negotiations that follow.

The residents at the Home for the Aging know this:  you cannot live in the past.  All of the small and great inequities and hurts will either swallow you or be pushed aside once you reach your 80's or 90's.  Choosing to let go of heartache and move on will, in the end, pave the way to a longer and more satisfying life.

The next time you are engaged in a highly emotional mediation, try giving a chance for the emotional party to express those emotions freely and fully.  Acknowledge and validate that they exist and then pause before engaging the more rational side of the brain in negotiation.  It just might increase your life, too.

P.S.  I published an article in the Daily Journal on February 22, 2019 on this subject:  "Should Lawyers and Mediators also play the role of therapists".  I'll share it with you via email or next month when I get rights to republish.  In the meanwhile, I'm sharing an article published by the Dispute Resolution Section of the ABA: Where Confidentiality and Transparency Collide.

Jan SchauComment