At a mediation you need to have absolute power from your client with the ability to make decisions. Without access to such a person, a mediation is just a conversation where nothing is decided. If that decision maker is one who’s used to having a lot of power a successful resolution may be more difficult than it need be.

There’s a link between having a sense of power and ignoring a crucial part of the decision-making process: listening to advice. Power increases confidence which can lead to an excessive belief in one’s own judgment and ultimately to flawed decisions, according to a research paper discussed in an article in Strategy + Business.

Researchers found powerful people are less likely to take advice because they have high confidence in themselves and don’t feel a need to incorporate outside views. By ignoring advice from others people in power also risk making flawed decisions.

Can Absolute Power Can Disrupt Mediations?

  • Using four experiments the researchers explored the connection between power and openness to others’ input. Researchers found that powerful people (especially men) were more likely to ignore and mistrust outside perceptions and advice.
  • Confidence was perceived as an important attribute of leadership. Many powerful people, over time, can see taking advice as a sign of weakness and believe they should project total confidence in their views alone which can be a false assumption.

There were a total of four studies the findings from one were,

  • High-power participants were less accurate in their answers than low-power participants.
  • Low-power participants were significantly closer in their final estimates to the real numbers because they “averaged” their initial guesses with the input from advisors.

The findings have troubling implications for organizations with high-power leadership. Power can result in advice being ignored, and an individual’s approach to seeking help or accepting performance feedback could be limited. One solution could be formal advice gathering at the earliest stages of the decision-making process, before a powerful individual has a chance to form an opinion.

Not only can the high level overconfident business leader be uninterested in your advice and counsel, that person, not surprisingly, may be very difficult to work with.

  • The line between overconfidence and arrogance is thin.
  • Boasting, displaying ignorance and disparaging others can increase conflict and poison the atmosphere of a mediation.
  • Overconfident people don’t believe they can fail, even when presented with evidence that their methods are detrimental to resolving an issue, they may find someone else to blame.

How should you deal with such a person? If the person is managing your client and paying your bill, it complicates the situation. You could just go along and be a high priced “toadie” but is that in your client’s (and your sanity’s) best interests? Some advice for handling a self-centered person comes from the Huffington Post,

  • Don’t be a door mat. Make clear boundaries.
  • Observe and evaluate behavior objectively.
  • If you need to defend yourself or your position, make it short. He or she probably won’t listen and will guard their self-image.
  • Don’t buy into their arrogance, don’t feed their sense of self-importance, stay true to yourself and be sincere.
  • If you need to assert yourself, don’t attack but show that you don’t agree.
  • Don’t get attached to the person. He or she will almost certainly not get attached to you.
  • Have an open mind, be tolerant and patient.

If one person is making the decisions for your client, it’s simpler because there’s no committee to consult and come up with a consensus.  On the other hand, if your client is too full of him or herself you could have a lot on your hands.

Steve Mehta is a professional full-time mediator who specializes in mediating complex and emotional cases. A leading Los Angeles mediator, Mr. Mehta has been repeatedly selected as a Super Lawyer in mediation and is highly regarded by both sides to mediation. To schedule mediations, please visit SteveMehta.com