It’s Not About You: The Other Party Isn’t There to Help Your ClientIf you’re involved in a negotiation or mediation you’re trying to reach an agreement that will put a legal action behind the both of you. Each side has its own interests and perspectives. Neither your client nor the other party is there for philanthropic reasons. Each party will decide based on their own needs and interests, not to help out the other.

Understand That The Other Party Isn’t There to Help Your Client

To be more persuasive, address the concerns of the other party, suggests an article in Entrepreneur magazine that looks at persuasion in the workplace.

  • When you’re talking to the opposing party, try to avoid using the words “I” and “we” but use “you” instead. It will change your mindset to think more about what the other party wants or needs. This way you’ll have a better chance of connecting with the other party and reaching an agreement. Note, however, this tool is helpful for understanding perspective, but may be detrimental when dealing with emotionally charged situations.
  • After thinking about the case from the other party’s perspective and why they might think a settlement is a good idea, talk about the benefits of a proposed settlement and how an agreement is in their best interests. See my book
  • Unless there is still some good will between the parties despite the lawsuit and there will probably continue to be some kind of relationship, they probably don’t care what your client’s needs and interests are and won’t feel an obligation to help your client reach his or her goals. They want an agreement that serves their own needs, not your client’s needs.

Your client may want compensation due to some wrong, actual or perceived, so is seeking a settlement to get that compensation. The other party may want a settlement for many other reasons.

  • The financial costs of litigation, including legal fees and paying for expert witnesses.
  • Lost time because company officials will be tied up in meetings with lawyers, going through files and databases looking for evidence, working with expert witnesses, attending depositions and the trial.
  • The opportunity costs of litigation. Time, money and energy spent on litigation can’t be spent on managing a business.
  • The risk the plaintiff may be successful at trial resulting in a financial loss greater than a settlement.
  • A party’s “dirty laundry” may be exposed through discovery and at a trial, in addition to financial and personal information it doesn’t want made public.
  • The public relations cost of being portrayed and possibly perceived as the “bad guy” in the case. Given the popularity of social media, a story about a lawsuit can be distributed worldwide in minutes.

Both you and your client need to step out of your proverbial shoes and walk a few miles in the opposing party’s shoes, think about their needs and craft an approach to negotiation that will address those needs.