Mediation thoughts: “Never take a hostage you are not willing to shoot.”

Rich McLeodADR

Mediations are negotiations – and in negotiations, drawing lines is sometimes the final step. (More often, it is an almost final step.)

But what happens if you draw a line, and the other side crosses it?

Well, if you let them cross it without repercussions, they know that the line means nothing – not that one or the next one.

So what do you do if you want to test a line?

Instead of saying, “If you don’t drop your demand to x, we are out of here”, try “Your demand needs to be x if you want us to stay interested.”

But what if it really is a line?

The answer is simple – don’t quibble, don’t equivocate, don’t leave room for doubt.

Try, “We’ll pay x. We’ll pay it one move from now or 2 moves from now or 10 moves from now. But we won’t pay x+1 ever, voluntarily.” Most importantly, communicate that you aren’t being heavy handed. Although you hope that the matter will settle at x, you are at peace with not settling if x won’t do it, and you understand that the other side might reasonably not agree to x. If so, we’ll shake hands and depart as friendly adversaries.