20/20 Hindsight: Lessons on conflict resolution from the home for the aging Lesson #4: Be an Opportunist: The future is uncertain
LESSONS ON CONFLICT RESOLUTION
FROM THE HOME FOR THE AGING
BE AN OPPORTUNIST: THE FUTURE IS UNCERTAIN
Last night at the dinner table with my Dad and one of his (octogenarian) friends, the discussion revolved around travel. At 92, he is considering taking another cruise, but doesn't want to plan it for 2020, but for 2019. The talk turned to "splurging" for top notch care and living facilities. His friend asked rhetorically: "What are [other people] doing, saving for old age?" Then the talk turned to a more somber note, as one of their neighbors had fallen and broken a hip, but chose not to take the risk of surgery. Again, he was avoiding the uncertainty of the future, which, for him, came in an instant, not over the course of time.
Older folks know that their future is uncertain and that spending time doing things they love and spending money living their best life makes sense. They know that they can't predict how long they will have to enjoy their lives fully.
In mediation, it is useful to remind the parties that all of our futures are uncertain. The outcome of trial or litigation surely is! Reflecting on the lessons from the aging population, it is worthwhile to remind the parties that when they have reached the end of the negotiation, the certainty of the outcome in saying "yes" to that last offer is probably preferable in almost all circumstances than banking on an uncertain future. Mediation offers one of the few decisions that can be controlled with certainty in the course of litigation. Once a reasonable offer and demand are on the table, having this gentle reminder or discussion with your client might make the difference in living their best lives fully, too.
P.S. As promised, here is a copy of my most recent article, "Should Lawyers and Mediators also play the role of therapists" published by the Daily Journal on February 22, 2019. Should Mediators Play the Role of Therapists?