I was approached by a woman who was in the midst of a law case against a former friend and business partner. Ms. W’s current attorney was pretty high-stress, was not handling the case well, and this added to Ms. W’s stress. (It’s not a good sign when your own attorney increases your anxiety!).
These former best friends had joined into a property development project, with the defendant investing several hundred thousand dollars. The project failed, each angrily blamed the other, and the lawsuit started.
By the time I came into the case, trial was only a few weeks away. I dove into five boxes of documents and prepared all necessary trial pleadings. As I was reading, I saw that the defendant, Ms. W’s former former friend, was a nurse and had created a nonprofit to bring health services to the poor.
I wrote the defendant’s lawyer an email, saying that I saw that his client was doing very good work in the world, and it would be nice if the case could settle so she could get back to her wonderful service. This was completely sincere on my part (these statements need to be sincere – this is not a “technique”).
Trial was to start the next morning at 9 a.m.. I arrived with my client and we set up on our side. The defendant then walked across the courtroom to speak with me. This is exceeding rare! She told me that she felt that I was an honorable man, and because I was there she was willing to discuss settlement.
The judge gave us time to talk, and the case settled within an hour.
Later, this defendant contacted me about some details for wrapping up the case, and she thanked me again for my work. This is one of many, many examples where some simple recognizing of the Other, and sincere, kind communication, softens the conflict and creates the opportunity for resolution.