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Mediation Blog

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Dealing with difficult people can be our greatest challenge. Difficult people are everywhere in all facets of our life. They are the one puzzle that we find the most challenging to unlock.

The Consequences of Difficult People

Difficult people are often a roadblock to what we are trying to achieve. If we do not skillfully interact with difficult people they will not only frustrate us but also send us down the wrong path to our own detriment.

Block a deal? Check. Cause anger? Likely. Elicit an inappropriate response? Possibly. Result in a Bar complaint? Hopefully not.

Analyze and Do Not React

The first step in dealing with difficult people is not to react but to analyze. Consider this as a strategic scouting mission to determine the lay of the land. Do not default to the assumption that difficult people are just inherently crazy and then move on.

Be curious and try to figure out what is really driving this person. Are they simply having a bad day and this is a temporary reaction? Perhaps they have an agenda and this is their means of achieving it, such as grandstanding for a client. Or are they innately difficult because they lack the proper communication or emotional skills?

How do you do this? First take a breath, pause, and not get triggered by the antics of a difficult person. Make your first priority the acquiring of data for why the difficult person is acting the way they are. Trust me, most of us skip this step but it is a very important skill to practice.

Gather Information

You will want to non-judgmentally observe the situation with the goal to solve the problem for what is driving the person. Read the room. Are there clues in the environment that can help you to figure out what is going on with this person?

Next, ask open-ended questions. Get the difficult person to talk. You can start by stating that it seems as though they are (angry; cannot help you; don't believe you; don't want to make a deal; are confident they will win, etc.) and ask them to tell you more about why they feel that way.

Just validating a person's feelings or position, whether or not you agree with it, goes a long way to defusing the situation and can provide valuable information.

If a difficult person makes an outrageous statement or insults you, ask them what their intention is by making such a statement. They may fess up that their statement was not intended and apologize. In that case, it was just a misunderstanding and it has been fixed. If not, you now know the person is a bully or immature. With a bully, leave it there. The bully will have to respect you going forward as you have called out their behavior and identified it.

Remember the Goal

The goal is to see if you have a chance to solve the riddle of what is making the difficult person tick. If you can solve the person, you have a chance to solve the problem.

Communication and understanding is the key. Dismissing the difficult person or their feelings/position will not solve the problem but that is often what we do. We are then faced with a complete lack of understanding or two immovable forces pushing against each other without any progress or resolution.

Employ the Proper Response

How you can skillfully deal with a difficult person will differ and depend on what is driving them. There is no one-size fits all tool here. That is why it is important to first take a step back and assess.

If the difficult person is just having a bad day, that is a temporary condition that hopefully can be resolved by listening and validating it. Showing interest and concern for the person can certainly turn that situation totally around.

If the difficult person is grandstanding or showboating, then you know you need to take them aside privately to have a real conversation. Trying to solve the problem in the presence of the client will most likely only result in more grandstanding and escalation.

When a difficult person has an entrenched and confident position that either their cause is just, right, or will prevail, you now have the opportunity to find out the basis for it. Likewise, you can share information that can call into question the difficult person's position. When skillfully practiced, you can have a merit-based discussion rather than just a positional one. This is often the secret sauce to resolving conflict.

However, if you find that a difficult person is a bully, not willing to communicate, engage, or share, well then you know there is not going to be much that you can do. Now you just have to focus on your agenda and push on the best you can.

The point is that you tried. You never will know until you try. Do not lose the opportunity to engage with a difficult person that is actually capable of being engaged.

The Takeaway

Not all difficult people are the same. Many engagements with difficult people can actually be solved if you analyze each non-judgmentally and try to learn what is driving them at the moment. If you are able to do this, you can turn the situation around and move on to working towards your ultimate goal.

Less conflict, more resolution.

Patrick Russell

Miami Florida Mediator

Meaningful Mediation is Ethical, Mindful, and Strategic

meaningful mediation

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

ADR Section Mentoring Academy

Mentoring at Its Best

Each year, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section of The Florida Bar hosts a robust mentoring event. The annual mentoring event alternates each year between mediation and arbitration. This year the mentoring event focuses on mediation and is sure to be the Section's premiere continuing legal education event.

The members of the ADR Section have expressed a strong desire for mentoring opportunities so that new and seasoned members alike can gain practical insight on how to improve their practice and skills. The annual mentoring academy was created to address this need.

What is The Mediation Mentoring Academy?

The Mediation Mentoring Academy is a two-day interactive and intensive in-person workshop. The faculty for the Mediation Mentoring Academy are Florida Supreme Court Certified mediators with extensive and diverse mediation experience.

The goal of the Mediation Mentoring Academy is to provide advanced mediation techniques for the participants to take their practice to the next level. The benefits of attending the Mediation Mentoring Academy include:

  • Practice techniques and receive live, immediate feedback that will make you a better mediator.

  • Gain appropriate, ethical mediation techniques to address complex litigation.

  • Advance your experience in handling hurdles that can appear in complex cases.

  • Improve how you handle openings in circumstances ranging from hostile to congenial—what to do and when.

  • Get pro tips on how to test party-imposed limitations without overstepping ethical boundaries.

  • Learn technology tips that can enhance your practice and improve your clients’ experiences.

  • Increase your statewide network of mentors and co-mediators.

  • 11.5 CLE/Live General CME credits, 1 CLE/CME Ethics credit, 1 CLE Technology credit, and 7.5 CLE/CME Professionalism credits.

A Unique Experience

The format of the Mentoring Academy is unique and sure to keep your interest. There are of course panel discussions covering practical tips and instructions for mediation, but also an interactive and non-scripted role-play for a challenging mediation that encourages everyone to participate.

Also included is a participant roundtable to generate new ideas for evolving mediation issues, and a concluding discussion between former Chairs of the ADR Section as they share their wit and wisdom. Finally, there will be plenty of opportunities to network and socialize including a dedicated reception just for that purpose.

An Honor and Privilege

I am so grateful to be included as a faculty member for this fantastic event. It is a great honor to start the Mediation Mentoring Academy with a presentation on Mindfulness in Mediation and how mindfulness can help improve mediation outcomes. Likewise, I am looking forward to sharing time again with my colleagues as former Chairs of the Section during our concluding discussion.

With so many great mediators to be present, I plan on being a sponge and soaking up some great ideas to help improve my own skills.

Register for the Mentoring Academy

If you are a mediator and want to improve your skills, this is the event you will not want to miss. The Mentoring Academy is taking place on February 24-25th in Tampa, Florida and you can register HERE. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Less conflict, more resolution.

Patrick Russell

Miami Florida Mediator

Meaningful Mediation is Ethical, Mindful, and Strategic

meaningful mediation

Don't Fear the Holiday Cheer

The Holidays at the end of the year can be both joyful and stressful for many. Joyful as to the season's decorations, music, the gathering of family, and the excitement of children. Stressful in trying to meet deadlines and objectives associated with work, shopping, and traveling.

I would suggest there is a simple way to make this time of the year special for all. It only takes a simple change in perspective. This could be the greatest gift that you give yourself or someone else. Don't believe me? Try this simple thought experiment and let me know if it does not improve your outlook immediately.

All is Good

The Holiday season arrives at a magical time when the year ends and a new one begins. This provides an amazing opportunity to double up on two gifts you can give yourself. There is the gift of gratitude for all you have and what was accomplished over the past year. Then there is the gift of hope for the new year, a fresh start, additional goals, and new plans. This is a potent elixir, a booster shot if you, for happiness.

Gratitude and Hope

Gratitude is the antidote for negativity. It focuses on what you have while negativity focuses on what you do not have. Being thankful for your health, family, friends, possessions, and work really puts things in perspective. And with this perspective, you can see that not all is bad.

Hope on the other hand generates excitement, planning, and action. Just think about any time you start something new and how you feel. Combining gratitude with hope is a sure way to cure any Holiday doldrums. Now imagine applying this secret sauce as much as possible in your life on a daily basis. Why not try it out, what do you have to lose?

Happy Holidays and New Year

I am so grateful for being able to help my fellow lawyers resolve disputes. It is both an honor and privilege to be of service. There is no greater joy than seeing a conflict resolved and the parties being able to have more peace and closure in their lives. My hope is to continue this work and with your help, to improve my skills and the process as we do this together. I wish everyone a happy, healthy, and prosperous Holiday and New Year!

Meaningful Mediation is Ethical, Mindful, and Strategic

meaningful mediation

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