Mean what you Say and Say What you Mean




This year’s newsletter is a series of “Life Lessons”, in tribute to my late mother. They are lessons that have served me well as I apply them to mediation.  

My mother was a clear communicator.  Once in awhile, it was misinterpreted badly, but you always knew where you stood with her.  For example, she would say to my niece, “Those jeans look great on you.  They don’t make your rear-end look nearly as big as the white ones you had on last weekend.”  Honestly, I thought she made up the phrase:  “Say what you mean and mean what you say”, but upon further research I find it’s attributed to Dr. Seuss, who wrote in 1954 in “Horton Hears a Who”:  “I meant what I said and I said what I meant.  An elephant is faithful 100 percent”.

With so much communication taking place by social media and via e-mail, the art of communication can get lost or misapprehended.  For example, I read a follow up email that went on for 2 pages today–accusing the other side of blowing the chance to settle the case when it could have been resolved so much less expensively by waiting until the eve of trial.  There were accusations of bad faith and downright disinterest until the last sentence that said something like:  “Of course, Plaintiff is always interested in engaging in settlement discussions should you choose to do so.”  The reader, a little like the Village of Who, could not discern whether this was an invitation to further negotiate or a diatribe of finger wagging reminding the opposing lawyer of all of the missed opportunities to accept lower settlement demands that had long since expired.

My mother knew that if you lead with a clear message, your true character and integrity would come through.  (And maybe, like my niece, you’d start wearing the new blue jeans more often than the white ones!)

P.S.:  I will be presenting, together, with my colleague and friend, Rande Sotomayor at the Annual SCMA Conference on October 21, 2017 at the new LA Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles on “Transformative Moments in Commercial Mediation:

 Techniques for Success”.  You can register for the Conference here.

P.P.S.:  If you are still reading, I had some fun googling this quote and was tempted to take a survey of my readers about it’s origin.  Some attribute it to the March Hare in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”.  Others to “Horton Hears a Who” by Dr. Seuss.  Still others attribute it to the Bible and Jesus himself!  I’m sticking with my Mom, though. She wouldn’t lie to me about such a thing would she?

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