Mediation Skills for Litigators

At Seattle Divorce Services, we believe in having all of our attorneys go through mediation training, even if they don’t plan on being mediators. I really think mediation training helps any attorney be a better negotiator. We are hosting a mediation training at our office this weekend and next that some of our attorneys as well as others from the area will be attending.

Good negotiation is not just about being tough and bluffing a lot. It is about paying attention to what is important to the other side so you can orient your proposals to address their concerns. It is about letting the other side know you are hearing them so they can settle down enough to deal with the issues at hand. It is about building trust, and it is about having tools in your toolbox to break through impasse.

One of the tools that mediators often use when people get stuck is expanding the range of options. Too often people get stuck on “I want A” while the other is at “I want B”. At that point they don’t know how to move forward because neither wants to give in to the other. However, if you can help develop options C, D, E, and F, then you can start exploring which parts of the different options appeal to each party and start putting a solution together that borrows elements that appeal to each side.

Let’s say two people are negotiating and one says “I want $100,000” and the other says “I think you should get “$50,000”. At that point they are just butting heads, trying to get the other to back down. However, you might have a much better chance of finding a way to bridge the gap if you can start developing some other options like: 1) take the $50,000 in post-tax high yielding assets, 2) take $50,000 plus I’ll help remodel your house, 3)  I’ll share the additional funds with you if my bonus comes through, or 4) I’ll give you more if I can pay it over time.