How did you identify differing levels of power at the table?

Werner Petterson

 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

When you perceived that there might be a significant power imbalance between the parties in this case, how did you intervene?

In this particular case, there really wasn't an imbalance. In cases where there are power imbalances, the person(s) in power tries to use the mediation to their advantage and it usually becomes very clear. The other side responds or is hostile and they feel like they are being pushed to the point by somebody who has a little more power. Usually, I try to talk with the person who has the power, to look at where their position is taking them. I say, "if you hold that position and exert your power and not show any flexibility then this thing is going to continue to get worse and we aren't going to find a solution." Sometimes it was a possibility that if we couldn't work something out then there was going to be lawsuit or some sort of boycott or a threat of violence. The person that is in the position of power reflects on where that's going to go. That's been my general response. I talk to the party with the power to point out this will continue to go in the direction they want to go and the downside of that and what are the possibilities of going some other direction. Not to say they ought to accept what the other side is saying, but at least get them off of just being partners in that situation. The other side of the equation is that people have different kinds of power, but for the side that has the least power sometimes being in that situation they make demands that are unrealistic. The other side has such a firm position that you are so firm on going to say out of doing this one stands about as much chance as an ice cube in hell. I ask if we can think of it another way, or if we can talk about some of these other issues. I think when there is a real power imbalance the mediator needs to bring some reality to the situation for both sides. They may not be seeing the best solutions.

Will Reed

 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

One of the biggest things doing table strategies and negotiations, is you may never know who the power broker may be at the table. See, sophisticated groups, groups that are used to coming to the table, who know a little bit about negotiation are people who never reveal their true power and their true strength. You can have somebody at the table, Jack over here in the corner hasn't said a thing. But Ruby here, is raising all kinds of hell. She's calling the other side all sorts of names that you can't print, and Jack over here is just looking at her and he may give her a signal, "Cut that out. We don't need that right now." But on the other hand, he could say, "Go girl!" But he calls the shots. So you have to be cognizant of the dynamics of table negotiation to the point where you can know that conceivably, the person making the most noise may have least input. They may do that for a day or a day and a half or whatever it takes to throw you off. Or even to turn you off. So there's such a thing as table dynamics in negotiations as to who is the weapon around the table. People play all kind of games.

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