Mediation Blog

  • Patrick Russell

Defining your purpose, whether at life, work, a task, or at play, goes a long way to achieving a sense of success and satisfaction. Those without a sense of purpose are generally adrift, often dissatisfied and unhappy.

So what does purpose have to do with mediation and negotiation? Everything!

Where you can define purpose in all facets of your life, you can achieve better outcomes on all fronts. With a lack of purpose or direction in life, your dissatisfaction will spill over into work. Likewise, without purpose at work or in the tasks you undertake, the likelihood of success will diminish.

There is an overlap in purpose that impacts all that you do. When you can unify your purpose in both life and work, you will have the best chance to succeed. This is what I mean by the confluence of purpose.

Universal Purpose

For those that cannot figure out their purpose, one great starting place is to help others. If you can do it, paying it forward is an excellent purpose in itself. There are plenty of causes to get behind and no limit to those who need help, including homelessness, world hunger, the environment, education, civil rights, or simply coaching kids in sports.

The point is not to suggest you should make your purpose to achieve world peace. Instead, the point is to define purpose as a goal to help. How you do that is entirely up to you. You will have a better chance of achieving your goals when you define purpose as to help. In other words, Purpose = Help.

Purpose is the means to a goal, not the goal itself. In this way, you have control over your purpose, as all that is needed is your effort. Conversely, when you define purpose as making money or winning a trial, you do not necessarily control those outcomes.

Unifying Your Purpose

I would suggest that when you make it your goal to define purpose as help in all that you do, you will achieve a higher level of satisfaction and influence in your life. After nearly three decades as a lawyer, I decided that my purpose was to help others solve their legal disputes rather than be a participant in fighting out those disputes. I find greater satisfaction in helping people resolve their legal disputes than I do by winning a long and difficult trial.

Everything that I do is now directed towards that single unifying purpose of helping others to resolve disputes. I help lawyers with tips and strategies like this article, to be better at mediation and negotiation. Likewise, I help lawyers with tips and strategies regarding lawyer wellness as that leads to greater happiness, satisfaction, and more effective lawyering. In my work with the ADR Section of The Florida Bar, I seek to help my fellow mediators apply mindfulness to the mediation process, which leads to more ethical and better outcomes at mediation. My purpose in all three phases is to help, and the goal is to have a better mediation process, a more meaningful mediation.

Application of Purpose to Mediation and Negotiation

Altering your perspective at mediation or in a negotiation to help both parties resolve a problem will open many possibilities. You will lose the fixation on only focusing on your interests. Making a good deal just for you does not make the other party more likely to agree.

As litigators, we tend to concentrate on our interests and needs, but it takes two to make a deal. Showing a general interest, curiosity, and desire to help the other side will not only build rapport but open up creative opportunities to find a collaborative solution. That is the art of the deal.

The Takeaway

In the end, it really is pretty simple. Start to define your purpose as a genuine desire to help. Executing your purpose and controlling your effort to maximize helping others will lead to satisfaction and happiness. A happier lawyer will achieve better influence and outcomes. Better outcomes will lead to a happier client as a result. This is a case where the purpose of help as a means certainly justifies the ends.

If you are interested in learning more about mediation and negotiation strategies, please be sure to check out this site's Resources page.

Stay well,

Meaningful Mediation is Ethical, Mindful, and Strategic

meaningful mediation

#mediation #adr #disputeresolution #mediationtips

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There is an ingrained misconception that mediation is simply about splitting the difference between competing offers. To make that point, I recently attended a conference, and one speaker stated that her job as an umpire was much different than that of a mediator. To support that claim, the speaker indicated that mediators split the difference during mediation, while her job was to evaluate and value claims. To say that I was a bit disappointed by that comparison would be an understatement.

Past Mediation Practices

There is some truth to the fact that many mediators have in the past and continue to split the difference at mediation. Most lawyers have had this experience where the mediator ends up doing shuttle diplomacy.

Shuttle diplomacy is the practice of certain mediators that go back and forth between the two parties with a legal pad in hand carrying offers and counteroffers. The primary task at hand ends up being the exchange of numbers until each side meets somewhere in the middle.

The practice of shuttle diplomacy usually starts with very high demands and very low offers with tiny increments in between. After a long mind-numbing process, the final resort will be the mediator's use of a bracket to bring the parties closer to settlement or realize they need to go home. While this may be one form of practiced mediation, it is not the only way to mediate.

Mediation 2.o

Mediation appropriately done is so much more than just exchanging numbers and splitting the difference. Splitting the difference at mediation for all cases implies that each party shares equal responsibility, liability, and fault, which is not the case. Stated another way, if mediation was just about splitting the difference, there would be no need for mediators as the parties or an accountant could perform that function.

True mediation in its purest form is the resolution of a conflict. To resolve a conflict, there has to be an understanding of the nature of the conflict and the underlying issues. Understanding conflict and its disputed issues requires gathering and exchanging of information so informed and rational decisions can be made. This means there has to be good communication, honesty, and a non-judgmental assessment of options during mediation. This is more than just numbers.

A mediator determined and interested in resolving a conflict will utilize more skills than just exchanging numbers. Mediation 2.0 will have a mediator first setting the tone for the mediation to be conducive to achieving the objectives for the honest sharing of information.

To achieve the critical need for the sharing of information, the mediator will need to utilize non-judgmental communication methods to encourage the parties to do the same. Many parties just need to be heard before their disputes can be resolved. Proper techniques for listening, speaking, body-language and the use of empathy are all tools in the Mediation 2.0 toolbox. Finally, a mediator must have an open mind to engage in high-end problem solving to move the parties towards a collaborative process for solving their dispute.

Expect More From Your Mediator

If you are only interested in numbers, then perhaps all you need is a number cruncher to split the difference. That, of course, would imply that both sides agree on the numbers and are equally responsible for the conflict. I would suggest that very few mediations are only about numbers or should split the difference.

Likewise, if you are going to mediation to check off a box so you can go to trial, well, then, in that case, any mediator will undoubtedly do. However, if you have a true human conflict and dispute, as most cases are, you then need a mediator that is equipped to do more than just split the difference.

The Takeaway

While many mediators continue only to split the difference does not mean that is what mediation is about. There is so much more to mediation than splitting the difference. Educate yourself on the differences between mediators and then determine whether you need shuttle diplomacy or Mediation 2.0.

If you are interested in learning more about mediation and negotiation strategies, please be sure to check out this site's Resources page.

Stay well,

Meaningful Mediation is Ethical, Mindful, and Strategic

meaningful mediation

#mediation #adr #disputeresolution #mediationtips

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  • Patrick Russell

Lawyers and mediators share a common goal, namely, we are problem solvers. How we go about solving problems might be different, but the skills needed for our mission are generally the same.

Mediation Problem Solving

What makes a good problem solver? For starters, communication is an essential skill for connecting with people and solving problems. Likewise, having some subject-matter expertise for the issue at hand will certainly help. Finally, some old-fashioned curiosity, willingness to learn, and the ability to think outside of the box can help generate solutions.

In the end, if you want to hone your craft, you will need to continue to develop your skills and enhance your knowledge. Failing to stay current or to expand your horizons will certainly lead to your stagnation. When that happens, you may find yourself only having skills and solutions for yesterday's problems and not today's problems or those you will undoubtedly confront in the future. Your ability to solve problems is directly proportional to the number of options that you can envision.

Mediation and Continued Legal Education

One way to increase the options available to you to solve problems is by continuing your education and training. Lucky for us, as lawyers, we are already required to do this with mandatory continuing legal education.

What I am suggesting is that when completing your continuing legal education requirements, throw yourself into those courses with genuine curiosity and the determination to learn something new. Choose something that is interesting for you but also something that you can apply to your practice to enhance your options for problem solving. Do not lose this opportunity and simply choose something convenient or that you listen to in the background while you work.

There are two great ways to accomplish your continued education and skill enhancement objectives. First, you can attend in-person conferences for those subjects that interest you and apply to your practice area. By doing this, you will be exposed to numerous presentations on the subject matter of choice and will mingle with other people that share your interests. Remember that idea for enhancing your communication and people skills?

The second great way to accomplish your continued education and growth is by educating others. Not only can you receive continuing education credits for teaching courses, but the preparation that you will need will certainly enhance your knowledge as well. And again, you will be interacting and communicating with others who want to learn what you have to share. As a win-win, you will be undoubtedly enhancing your communication and people skills.

Putting it to Practice

This month, I will be attending the annual Windstorm Insurance Network WIND Conference in Orlando that covers all matters related to property insurance claims. I do this as a mediator to keep up with the changes in Florida insurance law so I can be better equipped to help resolve insurance claim disputes. Likewise, I will attend the WIND Conference so I can become certified as a WIND umpire for the appraisal of insurance claims. By doing this, I am adding another tool to my toolbox for resolving disputes.

Just the same, later this month, I will also be presenting on a panel for the Broward County Bar Association on the topic of "Mindful Mediation" during the May Wellness e-series. In doing so, I will be able to guide a discussion that I absolutely enjoy and, all the while, hopefully, be able to help better equip others to resolve disputes while at mediation. I consider this to be a win-win.

The Takeaway

So again, educate do not stagnate. You can continue to grow and develop a useful curiosity for solving problems by attending interesting continued legal education programs but also by helping to teach those same topics. Do this so we can have more resolution and less dispute.

If you are interested in learning more, please be sure to check out the Continuing Legal Education page for The Florida Bar and this site's Resources page.

Stay well,

Meaningful Mediation is Ethical, Mindful, and Strategic

meaningful mediation

#mediation #adr #disputeresolution #mindfulness

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