From the True North Empire blog by Belinda Jokinen
I have another great example of how Mediation is the the best way to Move On in a conflict situation. Disclaimer: I’m changing all the nouns, and substituting the details that have any chance at being identifiable so if you think for one sentence that you know who I’m talking about- give it up. This exact example never actually happened.
Another Disclaimer: When you start to think I made this up and two educated, sober people could not possibly recall the same incident with such impossible discrepancy- I assure you they do.
I was helping this couple, Jane and John of course, sort out the details of their divorce. The item that was the most difficult to “separate” was the china cabinet. They had invested time, and money, and both had an attachment to it. We were on our 3rd session and they had been able to remain in the same room every time. When we discussed the cabinet they got real snippy so it was time to visit with them separately.
John let me know they had paid about $1,500 for the cabinet and the drive to Canada to get it took up a day and a half (fuel, day off work, etc.). He had been the one to purchase all the dishes in it, and they were collectibles for display, not for use. It was John who had wanted the cabinet in the first place and he’d done all the research to find just the perfect one for Jane knowing she would convert to loving it, and he was right. Since he put so much effort into finding the perfect cabinet for Jane’s preference, he wasn’t nearly as attached to it as her but he sure as heck wasn’t going to just give it to her, plus he had put so much research into the collector dishes only to have her actually use them and negate their value that he was fed up and wanted to buy his own new cabinet. The price that met “half way” to him was $1,000. He let me know how much he was displeased with the monetary, as well as non-monetary loss he was taking here but chalked it up to another cost of picking the wrong wife. If she would compensate him in the amount of $1,000; she could have the cabinet and the expensive dishes she devalued in it.
Jane let me know they had paid about $750 for the cabinet and let me know they’d had it shipped. She was pretty sure shipping was in the $200 range. (YES, two people can literally recall the same situation that differently) As for the dishes in the cabinet, she did not feel she had devalued them in any way, and in fact had added to it with her own favorite brand which was usable in the freezer, oven, and looked nice on the table. She was of the opinion that she certainly used it more, and it should go to her but would give it up if it meant being done for good. If John was willing to let her keep the cabinet she was willing to offer him $1,000 for it, since it really belonged to both of them.
Hopefully you can see what we have here. They are coming from polar opposite places of experience, opinion, and input; all the way to the part that matters. If this couple tried to have a conversation to decide who should get the cabinet and how much the other person should have to compensate for it they would have never got past arguing about the day they bought it. If they would have been paying attorneys to have the conversations for them it would have resulted in a court proceeding where they would have produced receipts, records, pictures, appraisals, and possibly statements from professionals or supportive friends. Of course producing such “proof” would have solved some of the discrepancy. The couple would have likely invested a substantial amount of time and money into the fight, and exploited each other’s vulnerable points on the subject to gain a better grip on their own position. Their anger for each other would increase substantially, and a minimum of weeks (since it takes 10 days minimum to get into hearing anyway) would be wasted on boring their co-workers, friends, and family over the details of this wretched cabinet that they both wind up wondering if they even want it in their home anymore for all the trouble it’s caused them. Depending on what the receipts and appraisals showed, there may or may not have been a transfer payment ordered, the dishes may have been separated from the cabinet, or some other solution may have been imposed.
The point here is that they were both happy with the exact same end result. They had very, VERY different reasons and paths to that resolve but were both comfortable with a payment of $1,000 from Jane to John, and Jane keeps the cabinet with the dishes all still in it.
When I brought them back together, I started slowly, but introduced the pieces of information they agreed on and you could literally see the tension leave the room as they both were hearing they were going to get what they wanted. Did the cabinet cost $1500 or $750? Did they drive to Canada, or was it shipped? What brand of dishes are in it? The answer to all of it- WHO CARES. She agreed to cut him a check for 1Large within 10 days and he was already shopping for the cabinet he really wanted which he would fill with dishes no one would use.
Only Mediation offers this type of process where a neutral 3rd party can hear what the issues are, and help the people reach an answer. The Fight Is Not The Answer. That’s not to say the fight won’t ever produce an answer, or even the same answer, but is it necessary? More importantly, is it worth it? Only in Mediation can you really tell your story, in your words, and choose weather or not the other person should be in the room to hear it. Judicial economy does not, and should not, provide for this kind of detail. But it’s your life. You deserve to be heard and have a say in the decision. Mediation offers you that.
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