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The Magic Words: Feel, Felt, Found

by Phyllis Pollack
July 2010

From the Blog of Phyllis G. Pollack.

Phyllis  Pollack

Earlier this month, my colleague Linda Bulmash published her July 2010 edition of Negotiation Tips for the Los Angeles County Bar Association (volume III, No 10, July 2010). Entitled “Avoid Confrontational Language”, Ms. Bulmash discusses what a mediator learns early on in her training courses: watch the words you use; be non-confrontational in your active listening and reframing.

To convey this notion of being able to disagree without being confrontational, Ms. Bulmash points to Roger Dawson’s formula: “Feel, Felt, Found”:

“Take a phrase we often hear in legal negotiations and mediations: “That is a ridiculous and insulting offer.” Armed with Dawson’s “feel, felt, found” formula, you can respond as follows:

“1. FEEL: “Please help me understand why you feel that way.” Or “I understand how you would feel that way.” “

“2. FELT: “I have been in your position and have often felt that way too.” “

“3. FOUND: “And, what I have found is that taking a step back to listen to what the other side has to say about why this is so insulting, often opens the door to other possibilities that might satisfy your interests.” “

That is, do not argue; instead, agree with the other party but spin it in such a way that will benefit you.

In my mediation practice, I conscientiously avoid confrontational language. This formula will lighten my task. It is an easy one to remember and to put into practice. And I know by doing so, I will get a lot more agreement. As they say: “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”.

. . .Just something to think about!


Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as well as their own needs better than any mediator or arbitrator. She does not impose her views or make decisions for the parties. Rather, Phyllis assists the parties in creating options that meet the needs and desires of both sides.  When appropriate, visual aids are used in preparing discussions and illustrating possible solutions. On the other hand, she is not averse to being proactive and offering a generous dose of reality, particularly when the process may have stalled due to unrealistic expectations of attorney or client, a failure to focus on needs rather than demands, or when one or more parties need to be reminded of the potential consequences of their failure to reach an agreement.

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