An Offer He Can’t Refuse
Marlon Brando will always be remembered for saying: “I am going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
Vito Corleone knew how to make his adversary aware of what was in his best interest. Underworld figures can win if the other side believes that they will be better off by accepting a proposed (or actually an imposed) solution rather than continuing with their preferred course of action.
When we get into disputes in the civilized world we can also make parties offers that they can’t--or at least shouldn’t--refuse. If the offer is in their best interest, as well as ours, then it is the classic win-win situation.
Our difficulty is the phenomenon known as reactive devaluation. The immediate reaction of the other side is to devalue, disbelieve and reject whatever we have to say. They don’t trust us, and they probably don’t even like us. They may think that we are acting like the Godfather, using tactics like extortion and blackmail. How often have I heard those words used in my mediations?
Here is where the mediator can be the true godfather (small “g”) looking out for both sides and helping them to see what is really in their best interest. Before a mediator can take on this role s/he must first spend enough time with the parties to establish a relationship of trust and rapport, but it is worth doing. Of course, the mediator must also have a sincere interest in helping each side to discover a mutually acceptable solution.
I have never had a party say to me in mediation what Marlon Brando said in the movie, but maybe someday it will happen.
Trust that little voice in your head that says, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if…,” and then do it.
Duane Michals, photographer.
Michael Carbone is a full time neutral whose practice focuses primarily on construction claims and defects, real estate, business disputes and complex litigation. He has mediated and arbitrated for approximately ten years. He has served as a court-appointed referee in real estate and business matters.
He is a past president of The Mediation Society, a member of the State Bar Standing Committee on ADR, the ADR Committee of the State Bar Business Law Section, and the Board of Directors of the California Dispute Resolution Council.
He practiced law for more than thirty-five years. His practice emphasized commercial real estate and general business matters, including litigation of construction, real property, land use, and business cases.
Additional articles by Michael P. Carbone