116. Surely Win/Win beats Win/Lose.

An experience I endured yesterday reminded me of the importance and the necessity of seeking opportunities to utilize The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions.

Yesterday morning I suffered through two torturous hours of terminally boring and glaringly irrelevant questions during a legal process I was told was formerly known as a Discovery, then a Hearing and now apparently for reasons known only to the legal profession, a Questioning.

I serve as a member of the condo board in the building where Gimalle, my wife and I live and several years ago one of our residents (allegedly – a word used repeatedly during this process) slipped, fell and suffered a painful injury on our property.

I have no doubt the alleged experience for this person was painful, the recovery slow, and the cost considerable in terms of work hours lost.

The individual in question is a delightful young person with whom I have had many pleasant conversations over the years, so I was somewhat surprised when approximately two years after the incident – the time frame in which must be filed – we were served with notice of a lawsuit.

Not only was the condo corporation being sued but the common practice, as I am told, is to cast the net as wide as possible and anyone with even the remotest and faintest connection to this incident is named as a party to the lawsuit.

My blog today is not about this matter. My opinion of our resident is unchanged and I wish them well.

My blog today is about how we as a society have for years perpetuated an adversarial system that requires someone or some entity to be wrong in order for someone else, or another entity to be right.

The can be no victor without a vanquished, no win without a loss.

This young person did nothing wrong in commencing this process and certainly did nothing different from what thousands of other people who have been injured have done over the years; They sought out a lawyer willing to represent them (I suspect there are no shortage of these) and, on the advice of that lawyer, asked for an outrageous sum of money leaving the door open to reach a negotiated settlement.

The question I raise is why have we as a society allowed it to become okay to accept this as the only way to resolve these types of situation.

I don’t believe this to be the only way, and it most certainly should not be the first way we go about addressing issues of this nature.

My own sense is that had we been approached with an explanation of what the known direct costs were and anticipated future costs from this incident, we could have discussed a dollar amount and presented it to our insurance company.

I personally believe we would have negotiated a settlement which would have been to the liking of all and this could all have been accomplished many months ago.

Instead, yesterday morning, I sat in a room with four lawyers each of whom, I assume, have charge-out rates of at least $300.00 per hour suggesting a cost of around $1,200.00 per hour for the day, plus all cost for their time spent in preparation and future review of additional information requested by them during this Questioning.

Those of us questioned yesterday were asked to answer the same questions over and over again by three of these lawyers each of whom was trying to position their questions so as to best favour their client.

Other than the fact that scenes like this are replicated in hundreds of offices across our country each day meaning dozens upon dozens of lawyers are making a fine living – as is their absolute right – I see no value in this adversarial method as a solution.

To me, The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions is a far more viable avenue to explore for the following reasons:

Firstly, the pathway to resolution is much shorter and is reached in a far timelier manner.

Secondly, the degree of animus is significantly reduced as the environment shifts from an antagonistic one to a shared desire to reach an amicable solution.

Thirdly, the needless waste of time and money spent in gathering information and the use of high-priced help who work hard to find and attach fault, is reduced or eliminated.

Fourthly, The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions encourages participants to complete this event quickly and move on with their lives.

The experts (whoever they are) tell us our adversarial system, which dates back some 2,500 years has served us well, and perhaps it has, but I just wonder whether we would not be better off if we embraced a win-win system – one in which in order to have a winner we would need another winner.

The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions is a simple function of all sides agreeing to quickly, expediently and as economically as possible find a solution to a situation, agree upon it and implement it.

It really is simple.

I do of course have another use for our existing system. It is one that could save our healthcare system tens of millions of dollars.

Instead of holding these adversarial and meeting in stuffy offices they could be relocated to operating rooms in major hospitals.

Patients can be wheeled in and placed on a table surrounded by lawyers and their clients.

These hapless patients will then be forced to listen to the ongoing droning of participants and will, in but a few seconds, lapse into deep unconsciousness thereby saving the system the cost of an anaesthetist and sparing the patient from the potentially harmful effects of anaesthetic drugs.

My only concern is that some patients, whose health is already compromised, may lapse into comas from which they would never recover.

Perhaps I am overreacting to what happened yesterday but I would certainly be interested in hearing from you and whether you think an adversarial system, such as the one we presently have, is really in our best interest or if, in fact, we all agreed to work towards acquiring The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions our lives would be enriched.

I wonder how many lawyers will support this notion.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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