This is my tenth year as a mediator. I mediate all kinds of tough business negotiations and painful litigated cases. I spend my days with people in conflict. There, I summon my humbler self to strive towards empathy, creativity and compromise. So it was rough this week when my youngest son (a College Senior) got hit by a man who appeared to be plenty affluent and at least my age in a parking lot.

Instead of exiting the vehicle and apologizing, or inquiring if we were okay, the man refused to provide his insurance information and asked us to handle it directly through him. He argued with me about what damage may have been caused and pleaded with me to minimize the claim, since he was having a bad time. After the initial estimate was communicated to him, he again got me involved, explaining that he's grieving the death of his mother, a religious man who couldn't speak too near the Sabbath, and ultimately that his business in real estate was abysmal.

My natural inclination was to empathize, encourage my son to go for a second estimate and then accept whatever he offered. Ultimately, today, after a week of negotiation, my son made the claim through our insurance, and they will make the effort to collect from the other driver. I couldn't get past this man's sad story to get to the "rights" which my young son was able to articulate. And yet...it's clear to all of us that had the man accepted responsibility at the outset, we would likely have accepted his real interest, which was to avoid going through insurance.

So beware the mediator! Sometimes our hyper-empathetic habits cloud the ability to exert our rights. Good thing I'm off on vacation for a couple of weeks. I'll be taking a cruise in celebration of my parent's 65th anniversary with 20 family members. Now that will undoubtedly bring opportunities for mediation! No vacation when you're a mediator. Just unpaid leave...

Jan Frankel Schau. Problem Solver. Mediator. Author. Ally. Jan Frankel Schau, Esq. settles litigated cases arising out of employment, business and tort disputes and has mediated over 1,000 litigated cases throughout Southern California. Jan has been a Panel Neutral at ADR Services in Los Angeles since 2007 and is widely considered one of L.A.’s preeminent mediators. Jan is also a popular trainer, author and lecturer on topical issues related to Alternative Dispute Resolution, including her book, “View from the Middle of the Road: A Mediator’s Perspective on Life, Conflict and Human Interaction. Please visit: www.schaumediation.com