Congratulations to Nance Schick for winning our Negotiation Story Contest! Here is her winning entry which wonderfully illustrates the importance of taking the time to ask about and identify your counterpart’s interests:
One of my favorite resolution stories occurred in the Bronx. My client had been sued for allegedly hitting a parked car when pulling from a curbside parking space. We were in nighttime Small Claims Court, which has a mediation program that parties can try while they wait for an opportunity to be heard before the Judge. After much discussion, it was clear that the plaintiff was not as concerned with winning when he wasn’t sure my client was the party who hit his car. He just wanted to be heard. His car was one of the few nice things he had been able to buy, and he felt emotional dings to match those on his car. We settled the case for $1 in exchange for the following apology: “I’m sorry that this happened to you.”
If we had been limited to a Judge’s determination, there probably would have been injustice to at least one of them. My client might have paid a settlement for an incident I still believe she was not involved in. Also, the plaintiff’s statements beyond the facts would probably have been stifled. This was a true win-win. They shook hands, both feeling heard and respected. I wish more of my cases could resolve this way.