President Lincoln and Negotiation/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Posted on January 7, 2017


An article recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal about President Lincoln’s experiences. The article, written by Jay inik, is entitled “A Lincoln Lesson for Donald Trump”. The author points out that Mr. Lincoln prepared for one set of foreseeable problems but instead had to deal with the issue of secession and the subsequent Civil War. Presidents sometimes prepare for a reality that exists at the time they run for President but, in fact, face another reality that exists at the time they assume office.

A dispute resolution strategy likewise may be off-base. One never knows what the other party truly wants or needs. In part, this is due to the fact that the party herself may not be fully aware of her needs and wants. A skilled mediator can help both parties define their wants and needs. Ultimately, the mediator can help the parties place their “needs” above their “wants”. By doing so, the parties are that much closer to attaining Win-Win.

There is no way to anticipate what an ultimate agreement will look like in a disputed matter. The parties need to gain a focus and clarity that the process of mediation can help them achieve. Dispute resolution is not easy. But one truism is obvious; if the choice is litigation or mediation, confrontation or civility, mediation and civility must also be given primacy. “Mediate don’t litigate” is a truism in such situations..