From Conflict to Harmony: Our Recent Mediation Triumph

We routinely receive applications for conflict resolution through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), and while each case may initially appear similar, they are inherently unique. The distinct nature of conflicts, the demeanor of the parties involved, their objectives, and the subject matter at hand, financial considerations, and more all contribute to this uniqueness. Every case we mediate using ADR leaves an indelible mark of wisdom and reinforces our belief in the effectiveness of ADR.

In February 2023, our Compass Conflict Resolution Center encountered a complex real estate mediation case. Here are the key details:

Landowner “A” had signed a development agreement with a builder under specific terms and conditions. Funds were disbursed to Landowner A for the initial payment, and the builder initiated ground-breaking equipment procurement, secured loans, and commenced phase 1 of construction.

Unexpectedly, Landowner “B”  entered the scene, asserting their legal heir status and claim to a financial share. When Landowner A and the builder refused to yield, Landowner B resorted to legal action and obtained a stay order, halting the project. The builder suffered the most, burdened by financial liabilities, commitments to homebuyers, and legal battles.

All three parties initiated numerous lawsuits and counterclaims, leading to protracted court battles that spanned several years. These legal conflicts inflicted significant financial strain and emotional stress on all involved, resulting in health issues.

The builder, referred by one of our previous clients,  approached me for an  advice on expediting the legal process. I explained the court process, emphasizing that, as an advocate, I could represent them effectively but had limited control over court proceedings and timelines.

Taking the initiative, I introduced mediation as a potential solution. I elaborated on the mediation process, its approximate timelines, cost-effectiveness, and advantages. Initially, the builder was skeptical, viewing mediation as mere “broker work” and compromise lacking in status. He questioned its legal validity and permanence. Despite my assurances that we could return to court if mediation failed, he rejected the idea, and my attempts to persuade him were fruitless.

Weeks later, the builder requested another meeting. This time, he was accompanied by Landowner A and displayed genuine interest in mediation. With two parties on board, there was hope.

Over three hours of discussion, both parties agreed to give mediation a chance. Over four challenging months, I initiated numerous dialogues, with Landowner B being the most resistant. It required considerable energy, time, and patience to build trust and bring all parties to the table.

We encountered several impasses during this period, with at least one party threatening to leave, pushing the process back to square one. After an additional three months of rigorous and meticulous meetings, I observed a shift in mindset among the parties, moving from principle-based positions to needs-based considerations. I seized this opportune moment to establish a neutral ground for collaboration rather than competition.

In August 2023, a momentous occasion unfolded when the mediation successfully concluded. On this day, the involved parties came together to formally sign a settlement agreement. What made this accomplishment truly heartening was the unanimous contentment shared by all parties involved. Each participant not only secured tangible benefits in the form of their fair share but also managed to preserve their relationships. Remarkably, this achievement was accomplished within the remarkably brief span of just seven months.

As an ADR professional, I employed several techniques, including avoiding confrontation, effective communication, empathy, focusing on the future, empowering all parties by creating a neutral ground, accommodating everyone’s interests, conducting private caucuses, follow-up, patience, and persistence.

Throughout this journey, I embraced continuous self-reflection and improvement, recognized the importance of cultural sensitivity, practiced reality testing, and learned to manage emotions, among other lessons. My most significant takeaway was earning the trust of the parties and gaining the confidence to tackle even the most complex cases in the future.

Effective mediation is not about imposing solutions but guiding parties toward discovering their own answers to their disputes. Success in mediation often hinges on the mediator’s ability to adapt these techniques to the specific needs and dynamics of each conflict, tailoring the approach to the situation at hand and the personalities involved, resulting in more satisfactory outcomes for all parties involved

~Priya Iyengar~

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