I don’t usually write about my mediations, in order to protect their confidentiality. But this one is too rich not to share. (Some identifying details have been changed.)

A business dispute resulted in a small claims action that went to mediation through our local Dispute Resolution Center of West Michigan. After each side told their story, which the other disputed, they both cautiously agreed that they’d like to do business again with one another, if possible. Defendant offered plaintiff a small sum, which plaintiff rejected as an insult. We broke to caucus.

P told me in caucus that he wasn’t sure what he wanted, but that little monetary payment wasn’t enough, so I encouraged him to think about what else would make him want to do business again with D. In the caucus with D, she said she would not apologize, and she couldn’t offer much more money, so I encouraged her to think about what else she could offer P to encourage P to do business again with D.

When they resumed their joint session, they did some negotiating. Here’s what they came up with:

  • D paid P a small sum
  • D will make a small donation to a local charity of P’s choice
  • D will provide P with products from D’s business that are some of P’s favorites
  • D will hire P’s relative for the summer
  • P will meet with D’s colleague to extend forgiveness.

In my introduction, I tell parties that mediation offers an opportunity to come up with creative, unique resolutions tailored specifically to their situation. This case was a perfect example of that. It was win-win-win — not only did the parties both feel that they had “won,” but that local charity wins too!


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