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<xTITLE>An Offer He Can’t Refuse</xTITLE>

An Offer He Can’t Refuse

by Michael P. Carbone
October 2009

From Michael P. Carbone’s Mediation Strategies Blog

Michael P. Carbone
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 P. CARBONE is a senior mediator who has also served as an arbitrator and court-appointed referee. His dispute resolution practice has been built over a period of more than 25 years and covers a wide range of fields.   His exceptional combination of transactional and litigation experience enables him to handle complex litigation and other challenging cases.  

Michael resolves business and commercial cases, real estate disputes, employment claims, construction claims and defect cases, estate and trust matters, insurance issues, legal malpractice, corporate and partnership disputes, and personal injury cases.  In his capacity as a court-appointed referee he has undertaken a wide variety of responsibilities, including sales and appraisals of real property, and the adjudication of trust accounting and administration matters.  

He is a member of numerous dispute resolution panels, including the National Panel of Arbitrators of the American Arbitration Association.  He is also listed on the mediation and discovery facilitation panels of several Superior Courts. 

He is a founder and past president of The Mediation Society, and a member of many other professional organizations, including the Academy of Court-Appointed Masters, the Dispute Resolution Section of the American Bar Association, and the Association of Business Trial Lawyers.

Michael is a frequent author and speaker on alternative dispute resolution issues.  He publishes a monthly newsletter entitled "Resolving It" which provides timely advice on strategies for successful mediation and discusses current issues, such as reforming the commercial arbitration process and mediating e-discovery.

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