For the record, the record is $10,000,000 among the cases I’ve handled, and it was a public accommodation discrimination case (restaurant service).
Nevertheless, I realize how hard it is to receive a demand of just about any amount. The fact is, the counter-demand is typically just as hard to hear. It’s important to recognize these are typical, emotional starts to most mediations – and that the vast majority of cases still settle.
In the beginning, both sides are contending with their own and each other’s emotional reaction to feeling wronged or that their concerns are being disregarded, whether it’s the party making the complaint or answering it; and receiving a demand that doesn’t seem responsive to one’s own sense of injustice naturally results in frustration and fear that resolution really can be achieved.
In my experience, it’s usually necessary for emotions (tempered) to be expressed before reasoning can prevail. It’s putting this natural sequence in front of parties that I find helps them better manage these beginning challenges and progress in negotiations.
Along with experience, my neutrality as a mediator is also very useful in providing this perspective. The combination leads to greater receptivity towards understanding emotionally charged exchanges and their place in the negotiation process, as well as the fact that emotions don’t necessarily signal the end of the resolution process. They can, in fact, unlock it.