The Value of a Gesture of Good Faith

This week I learned something from a friend and colleague, Steve Rottman, who, more often than I do, mediates at the lawyer’s offices. He sets up the condition that whoever has the convenience of holding the hearing in their office must pay for lunch and parking for all parties.

When I arrived at the Defense counsel’s very elegant offices this week, I tried this out. Though this had not occurred to the young associate before I arrived, he reluctantly agreed to bring in sandwiches and salads at noon for all participant’s at his client’s expense.

As most mediators know, the negotiation seldom begins significantly before noon, so the timing could not have been better. Miraculously, the Plaintiff reduced her demand by $25,000. when the lovely, catered salad arrived. She was hungry and hurting, and this put the first smile on her face that I had seen that day. Then, when the very difficult moment came when the parties were down to the last $5,000 in the negotiation, the receptionist was leaving the office for the day, and (at my suggestion) asked to collect the Plaintiff and her attorney’s parking cards, so she could validate the day’s parking.

Voila, the case was settled in the very next move.

Sometimes, a very small gesture of good faith (in this case probably a total investment of $100.00) can go a long way towards signaling cooperativeness and indeed, gaining cooperation towards resolving a contentious dispute.

In what ways do you value and encourage these gestures of good faith?

                        author

Jan Frankel Schau

Attorney Jan Frankel Schau is a highly skilled neutral, engaged in full-time dispute resolution. Following a successful career spanning two decades in litigation, she has mediated over 700 cases for satisfied clients. Ms. Schau understands the nuances of trial and settlement practice as well as client relations and balancing the… MORE >

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