In an earlier blog I said that we can learn a lot from the Bee Gees, and their great lyric, “It’s just emotion that’s taking me over.” (If you missed it, click here.) That led me to thinking, what other rock and rollers might might have unknowingly given us ideas that can be useful in mediation? That then led me to think about the classic Rolling Stones lyric: “You can’t always get what you want – but if you try sometime, you’ll find you get what you need.”

It’s hard to believe it’s been 53 years since Mick Jagger and the Stones recorded that rock classic. (It’s also hard to believe they’re still performing it! Click here for a 2019 performance in Buenos Aires.) The song has certainly stood the test of time, perhaps because the famous lyric, talking about the difference between “wants” and “needs,” is as true today as it was back then.

How does that concept apply to mediation? A few ways come to mind:

  • There’s a difference between what parties want to hear from a mediator, and what they need to hear. A large part of our job is to help each side make informed settlement decisions, taking into account all aspects of their case – including not only its strengths, but also its weaknesses (and every case has both). The starting point for that process is for the parties to understand their strengths and weaknesses, which in turn means hearing things from the mediator that they might not want to hear, but that they need to hear.
  • It’s good for parties to come into mediation with a goal, or a range of goals, as to what they “want” to happen. But that can become a problem – especially for plaintiffs – if the “want” is based on something external to the issues in dispute (such as using settlement money to buy a new car, or a new house), because it sometimes turns out in mediation that those “wants” simply aren’t achievable. It’s usually better for the parties to set goals coming into the mediation without reference to how those goals might impact other aspects of their lives. It’s also important for the parties to remain flexible and open to alternative outcomes, especially if their highest priority is simply to put the dispute behind them and move on with their lives.
  • Another way to look at what a party “needs” in mediation in order to settle the dispute is to think of it in terms of the party’s last, best, and final demand or offer – i.e., their “line in the sand.” The parties might “want” to do better than that if they can, but if their “needs” aren’t met, they’ll walk away from the negotiation. I mention this because, just like with the parties’ “wants,” sometimes the parties may have to reconsider their “needs” as well in order to reach resolution.

I’ll keep an eye (and ear) out for other examples in pop culture that might give us food for thought in mediation (and if any occur to you, I’d love to hear from you).

In the meantime, and as always, I remain dedicated to providing the best possible ADR services in the format that best suits the parties’ needs, whether through Virtual Dispute Resolution or in person when it is safe to do so. I look forward to working with you.

Best regards and stay safe,

Phil Diamond