Skip to main content

Act II: Writing Your Own Ending

Hamlet - Stock Illustration

{3 minutes to read}  In my last blog, I made the connection between theater and mediation, noting that good theater often addresses the types of conflicts that could be resolved in mediation. A play about mediation might be a real bore, because it’s after the fact. Protagonists have already done whatever created the dispute. Creating conflict makes for good theater.  However, resolving conflict can also be engaging.

All good fiction presents moments of tension and discord, even comedies. Seinfeld, a show famously described as being about nothing, works because the characters get involved in one hair-brained situation after another, and they all get admirably resolved without any real harm being done. Whew.

Now think of any favorite play, movie, TV show, musical/opera with a storyline. Two things they all have in common: 1) they are acted by actors, and 2) they were written by a writer or perhaps several writers. 

Writers can control the outcomes of the plots they create. Good writers manage to weave stories that stir our emotions and provide some insight into the human condition. Real life is rarely as manageable. We simply can’t control every aspect of our lives. There are too many variables, including too many other people whose interests may not align with ours. 

When my kids were young, there was a series of books called Choose Your Own Adventure. The books allowed the reader to choose different plot paths that would lead to different endings. One way to think of mediation is as a process that allows people greater input into writing their own endings. While in the abstract, most disputes could be avoided, they inevitably arise. Once they do, there’s a question of “writing your way out of it.”

If you think of disputes you’ve had — large or small — and tried to write a solution/resolution, you’d be on your way to being the lead actor and writer of a mediation play.  And this holds true for all sorts of disputes. Whether a dispute is between large corporations, a divorcing couple, an employer and employee, or the driver of a car and an injured person, if it settles — and most do — the settlement is put in writing.

A mediator is a bit like a director, but with limited control over the outcome. The parties are the writers and the actors. A good mediator assists the parties in writing their own script. Mediators cannot undo the original conflict but they can help the parties write new scripts with happier, or at least more beneficial, endings than might otherwise happen within the confines of a court litigation, where voices may never really be heard.

As a party, attorney, or mediator, can you rewind a dispute that got resolved and figure out where the script changed so the resolution became possible?  How might you use that to address existing disputes?

Gary Shaffer Gary Shaffer
Shaffer Mediation

About Us

An honors graduate of Harvard University and the Cardozo Law School of Yeshiva University, where he also served on the Law Review, Gary brings more than 30 years of litigation and negotiation experience to his practice as a mediator. He has successfully negotiated and mediated resolutions in family matters, employment cases, commercial disputes, personal injury cases, and major civil rights matters.

Contact Us

Phone :- 347.314.2163
Email :-