Lawsuits are easy, mediation is hard!

Lawsuits are easy, mediation is hard!

Please allow me to indulge myself for a moment and take you into some of my personal discussions with my friends, neighbors and business associates. Frequently, these conversations occur on my back deck with a cold beverage of choice in each of our hands. As may occur with many of your conversations, these discussions can migrate to the problems of the world and how, if we were in charge, we could solve them. Interestingly, a common theme in many of these discussions seems to center around “personal responsibility.” One of the common solutions that we all seem to agree on is that people need to have more of it. Fathers need to be more involved with their children, employers need to be more involved with their employees, citizens need to take more responsibility for their civic duty, and so on…

Why do I share this with you?

When we have a dispute with someone, we all know that must face our own problems.  We know have to take responsibility to solve it and we know that we have to face, at a personal level, the other person with whom we have a dispute.

But, you see that’s a big problem. By the very definition of a dispute or conflict it involves emotions. It involves anger. I’ve yet to see a dispute in which the parties weren’t angry at some level. Frankly, most problems that are not emotional get solved fairly quickly and don’t become “disputes”. The fact is, we love our anger. We hold onto it. We embrace it. To some extent, it makes us feel alive and deludes us into thinking that fighting is the right things to do. While sometimes is appropriate, in almost all circumstances it is not. Anger distorts our thinking process. To quote Mark Twain:

” Anger is an acid, that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured” 

When I grew up as a young boy, John Wayne was my hero. He was tough. Nobody messed with him and everything in John Wayne’s world was crystal clear – right or wrong. He made things simple and understandable:

“I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.” “Out here, due process is a bullet!” *

Now, I truly loved John Wayne and the world that his characters created. I wish we could all live in that world. But we don’t and we can’t. However, our culture has taken on a John Wayne mentality. We are not going to put up with **** from anybody. We want to handle things as if everything is crystal clear – as was in John Wayne’s character’s worlds. This “John Wayne Syndrome” is not a male or female thing, or even a generational thing, it has become an attitude that prevails throughout our entire society. We are more divisive, defensive, and derogatory towards others than at any time in our history. We see it today in our politics, in our divorce rates and our overloaded court systems. We see it in our online social media bullying and our crime rates. We see it everywhere.

But, to bring this talk back home, we see it in how we handle our own personal disputes. We have come to believe that “compromise” is a dirty word. We take our positions to the extreme in order to counter and defend ourselves from the other person’s position and not actually listen to the other person – we already know they are wrong  – why should we listen to their bull****?

Furthermore, we rarely acknowledge to ourselves, much less in public, that we had any responsibility at all in the problem that exists. We’ve been taught by our attorneys: “Don’t admit anything. Don’t say anything.  Don’t speak.”  Well, they are right – That’s a great way to generate lawsuits….  Not so good for solving problems.

Lawsuits are easy – Hand the problem to a lawyer and write a check. You don’t have to really acknowledge responsibility – just tell your side of the story.  The lawyer will “advocate” (ie. fight) for you. You don’t really have to face the other person and if you do – it will probably be months in the future.  It’s easy.  But, it comes at a very steep price. You pay in time. You pay in money, you pay by holding on to Mark Twain’s’ “acid”, and you pay in the very strong likelihood that you will not end up with a decision with which you completely agree.  Yes, sometimes, judges do make bad decisions.

Mediation is hard. In mediation, you confront issues more directly. You aren’t “putting off the problem” until later (ie. – avoiding it).  You’re handling it, now. You communicate with the opposing party and actually try to resolve the problem. You have to listen to them.  Even worse, in mediation, you are probably going to have address the problem much sooner than in court – while you’re still holding tight to all that anger!  Wow – That is hard!

But, handling your disputes directly… and doing it quickly, isn’t that really what we’re talking about on my back deck when we’re discussing personal responsibility? I think so.

Yes, mediation is harder to start than a lawsuit. But, it’s how you handle things if your really want to solve the problem – quickly and efficiently!

 Choose mediation first!

*- J.B Books in The Shootist 1976, and Colonel Mike Kirby in The Green Berets 1968

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