Time is of the Essence, Unless It’s Not


A sense of urgency can motivate us to make a decision or take an action. If you feel you need to do something there’s a good chance it will get done. That’s why marketing and sales pitches often appeal to our fears of scarcity (there are only so many left, so act before they’re all gone) or being left out (we fear we’ll regret our decision not to do something will result in a lost opportunity). This may be a good approach to selling lawn mowers but may not be the way to go when trying to settle a case.

Does Time Play a Factor in Settling a Case?

Roger Dooley’s blog on neuromarketing (using psychology to sell) discusses how effective clocks and timers on some websites can be in increasing sales or the number of people completing personal information forms. Dooley states that the image of a spinning clock along with a warning that time is running out in one instance increased sales by 9% and for another website tripled the rate of form completion. If you’re a business owner, that’s a pretty good return for a simple line of text and an image on a webpage.

Fears of scarcity and of being left out can play a role in resolving differences. If a party is told there is only a limited opportunity to settle a case, or a party will pay less to settle as time goes on and defense costs increase, it could get a party off the fence and agree to resolve the issue.

But negotiations and mediations are not a one size fits all proposition. If a case is emotionally charged, this approach can result in people feeling rushed or forced into a corner. A party may refuse to make a decision or reject a proposal because he or she feels under pressure. If the party filed the lawsuit, they already may feel they’ve been wronged and may feel doubly so if pressure is brought to bear against them.

Negotiators need to use care when considering how much time should be used for mediation.  A half day session may create a sense of urgency that could result in a resolution of a less heated case but that may backfire in a more emotional case.  Time is of the essence, unless it’s not.  A whole day session may be the better option to let the parties work through their emotions and reach a resolution through a more organic process.


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Steven Mehta
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. Visit: www.stevemehta.com

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