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Time, Money, and Happiness

PGP Mediation Blog by Phyllis G. Pollack

The BBC News service posted an interesting article (July 25, 2017) entitled “Time, not material goods, ‘raises happiness’” by Helen Briggs. The article discusses a study in which individuals reported greater happiness when they paid others to do their chores. Dr. Elizabeth Dunn, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada conducted a series of surveys and from them, concluded that “…people who spend money to buy themselves more free time are happier- that is they have higher life satisfaction.” (Id.)

Why? Because of “time famine”. That is, people all over the world are stressing out over the lack of time. More and more demands are being made on our time demands each day which causes a lower sense of well-being and increases anxiety and insomnia. (Id.)

While researchers found that out of 6,000 adults surveyed in the United States, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands, less than one-third were willing to spend money to buy time for themselves, the researchers also found (as a result of a more extensive experiment) that those who did spend the money to buy time, found that such a transaction increased their happiness and reduced their feelings of “time stress”. (Id.)

So… money does indeed buy time which leads to being happy. So- what does this have to do with conflict resolution? Quite a lot. When a defendant settles a lawsuit, isn’t she in fact freeing up her time in exchange for money? The settlement she pays means no more stress and anxiety over being sued and its possible outcome, no more time spent with the lawyers or in court having to deal with it. Rather, her time is now freed up to do what she wishes as she wishes. No more sleepless nights, no more stress thinking about what happens if she loses et cetera. No doubt, she is happy about those prospects!

And… for the plaintiff it is the same scenario. By accepting money, she too has saved (or bought time?) time as well. She, too, can now go about her life, not having to spend time with lawyers and in court, not being stressed out or anxious about being deposed. And obviously, she is happy about not only having more time but having the money as well!

And… both parties are very happy that the matter is over and behind them.

So… while other studies have shown that money cannot always buy happiness, it seems that when money is used to buy time, that time savings results in happiness. Just another reason to settle disputes early and often.

… Just something to think about. 


Phyllis Pollack

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… MORE >

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