Previously, I offered some tips on working out how best to resolve a dispute with a business partner head on. Now that you have arranged to meet, how do you manage the meeting so that you come away with what you want?
1. Focus on your endgame and prepare for the meeting
Put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself:
Do a trial run – have someone coach you if the stakes are high – so you know what to expect, pitfalls to avoid, key decisions you need to make and any factors likely to influence those decisions.
2. Consider hiring an experienced facilitator to manage the process
An impartial facilitator will make the discussions much more productive. He/she will change the dynamics, help you have awkward conversations constructively and keep everyone focused on what they want to achieve – and away from what is separating them.
3. Fight the problem, not the person
State your case clearly and factually. Reiterate what you have in common. Identify joint obstacles, and generate and explore options. Make sure everyone understands what they have to lose – not just financially. If you can’t agree a point, push to see how just close you can get. Then park it and consider it later.
4. Bite your tongue
Avoid being confrontational. It makes people more defensive. Instead, explain calmly and clearly how their actions and behaviour make you feel. You don’t have to agree with what someone says but showing empathy can make a real difference. Also, saying sorry can have a disproportionate effect. Just don’t admit liability.
5. Sign it. Get a binding agreement drawn up and signed before you leave.
By Andrew Hildebrand
Andrew is a leading commercial mediator and partner in gunnercooke.