Leaving It in the Hands of FateIn order for a case to reach the point where a resolution is being negotiated or mediated, it must’ve involved some serious, seemingly intractable issues that split the parties apart. Your client may feel helpless about the situation, feeling that fate’s responsible for the resolution, not the parties involved.

When and how to settle a case can be difficult decisions. Clients probably feel stressed and uncomfortable at a negotiation or mediation session. One reason is that they don’t want to feel responsible if the outcome, settlement or not, ends up not being a good one. Research suggests that some people cope with difficult decisions by shifting responsibility for them to fate, according to a Science Daily article.

How To Cope With Difficult Decisions

“Fate is a ubiquitous supernatural belief, spanning time and place,” researchers Aaron Kay, Simone Tang, and Steven Shepherd of Duke University write. “It exerts a range of positive and negative effects on health, coping, and both action and inaction.” Shepherd believed we could use a belief in fate to limit stress and fear, because if we’re not responsible for the final outcome, it’s simply playing out a certain way because of fate, we’re not responsible for the outcome so there’s no need to be concerned about it.

Researchers tested this hypothesis by asking people about the candidates for the 2012 U.S. presidential election. An online survey of 189 participants showed that those with the greatest difficulty in choosing between President Obama and Governor Romney were more likely to state they believed in fate, that it’s simply fate the better candidate will be elected.

In a second online survey, the researchers made it harder for one group of participants to choose between the candidates by supplying policy statements from both sides showing how similar their positions were on various issues. Other participants were given quotes emphasizing policy differences.

When participants had statements highlighting similarities, choosing whom to vote for was seen as more difficult. They reported a greater belief in fate compared to those who read statements focusing on differences.

Researchers admitted many issues were left unresolved.

  • Do people invoke fate when they need to make decisions that are personally but not societally significant?
  • Are we just as likely to blame luck or some other supernatural force when facing a difficult choice?
  • Belief in fate may ease the burden of a difficult decision, but it’s not known if that impairs an effective, internal decision-making process.

If your client feels that the situation is simply out of his or her hands, he or she is missing one of the greatest benefits of negotiation and mediation. The parties control the outcome. They’re not leaving up to a judge, jury or fate. They can decide when and how the matter is resolves. Emphasize that to your client if fate is being discussed. Parties are empowered by negotiation and mediation, not left helpless in the hands of fate.