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Does the Truth Matter?

October 27, 2015  | 

{3:55 minutes to read} We all tend to adapt a story in retelling it.  It’s mostly small points, but sometimes people who may have lived through the event with us will notice that some liberties have been taken.

It doesn’t mean that the embellishment is done to purposely avoid the truth.  It could be:

  • How we actually recall the event;

  • Our “version” makes an amusing story more amusing; or,

  • It puts us in a more flattering light.

And in most cases, it really doesn’t matter.  We’re just telling stories to friends and family, and we’re not being held to a high standard of truth.

But does it matter when our clients each have a very different version of the same event?

As a mediator, it doesn’t matter to me because we are not in mediation to make a determination as to the truth or fiction of past events as told by the parties.  I explain to clients that we’re there to help them resolve their futures, and that I’m not a judge or jury who is going to render a decision as to who is telling the truth.

But if those conflicting stories continue to be raised, the differences between them must be very important to the parties.  Each of them firmly believes his or her point of view is what really happened, and what they remember is impacting how they feel about resolving the issues right now.

I don’t want to spend their time and money in the futile attempt to try to determine the truth of past events, but I also don’t just want to dismiss it as not relevant when it is clearly relevant to them.

If the issue is blocking them from moving forward, then it doesn’t really matter whether it’s true or not.  For each of them, their recollection is so ingrained that it is their reality.

So, I think it’s important to talk about how they are not going to change the other’s reality, and that we are not in mediation to discover which recollection is correct.  Rather, it’s a question of each of them accepting that the other person truly believes it to be true, even if they don’t agree with that recollection.  

The focus of the conversation then shifts to why the story is important to them and what can be done in the future to insure that their interests are met versus arguing about whose version of the past is correct.

Comments from Social Media

Good topic of discussion. To help people get interests met, they have to move off blaming and towards problem solving. Extremely difficult to do due to emotional hurt lowering visionary ideas. While the emotions have to be validated, the focus is indeed on "where can we go from here" or "what do we do now" or "how can we get interests met and feel more at peace?"

Michael Toebe

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Clare Piro Attorney and Mediator

Attorney & Mediator
500 Mamaroneck Avenue | Suite 320
Harrison, NY 10528
Tel: 914.946.0848

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