By Lisa Cypers Kamen.
We live in an increasingly litigious society. Your neighbor makes a little noise? Sue. Someone fails to pay you on time? Sue. You get in a car accident? Sue.
The problem with this approach to life is that in an adversarial proceeding, no one wins. Even the technical winner of a protracted lawsuit has lost time, money, sleep and soul in the process. Of course, you don’t see that on TV. Television has glamourized lawsuits, cutting out the months and years an average lawsuit takes and instead going straight from the inception of a case to trial, all in 30 minutes or less. In reality, 95% of cases never make it to trial. After years of threats and motions and discovery and back and forth, the parties, both limp from the exercise, usually settle.
Of course, there is another option. It’s not one people talk about very often. It isn’t as dramatic. It isn’t as “sexy.” But you know what? It’s designed to be a win-win situation. It will save you countless dollars and immeasurable stress. It’s called mediation. In mediation, both parties show up, share information and with the support of a trained mediator, reach a mutually agreeable solution. There’s no jury. There’s no judge. It doesn’t require years of paperwork. It does, however, require an open mind and ears and a willingness to participate in the process.
These options aren’t limited to how to handle a lawsuit. They represent how you chose to live your life. Are you spending your time litigating, your life full of anger, competition and dissatisfaction? Or are you mediating, gracefully navigating difficult situations to find amicable solutions?
The choice is yours. But I suggest disposing of the litigious mindset that is thrust upon us by our sue-happy culture. Life is simply too short. Take a positive, conciliatory approach to life and you’ll be amazed how productive and happy you can be.
Imagine that a mediator and litigator are both sitting next to you. Imagine a conversation between these two people, and what mindset each would bring to the table. On a sheet of paper, jot down how you think each person would try to resolve the following situations:
- Your neighbor has been playing loud music the last few weeknights, sometimes well past midnight. You’ve lost sleep over the noise and have been groggy at work.
- A long-term project in which you played a major role just won your company accolades and positive press. One of your coworkers has portrayed himself publicly as the team leader and the main force behind the project’s success, but you know that you and the other coworkers involved were just as crucial to the final product.
- It seems as if your spouse has lied to you about one thing after another lately. You are not sure what is going on but suspect the dishonesty is covering up a larger issue.
Take a moment to reflect on these two approaches to solving problems. Identify the characteristics of the mediator and the litigator, and keep in mind the mediator approach next time you are confronted with a problem. The mediator mindset will keep you productive and positive, with happiness quickly following suit.