Hello and good day!
I was called into mediate a conflict yesterday. It was an impromptu mediation and it turned out beautifully in the end.
I have a good friend who owns a restaurant. He opened it three and a half years ago. Unfortunately, my friend and the landlord didn't have a lease agreement.
They had a handshake agreement without proper documentation. This is obviously a no-no, but it was what it was. This was the circumstance that had to be navigated.
My friend does not speak English as his first language. He is a Spanish speaker, as are many of our family's friends. The language barrier played a crucial role in the conflict. The landlord tried to increase the rent and my friend was under the impression that he'd been guaranteed a permanent fixed rate.
When the landlord announced the rent increase, my friend became furious and the two got into a big argument. Things escalated quickly and both sides threatened to call the cops and get lawyers involved. The landlord moved to evict my friend immediately.
I got a call from my buddy late at night. He wanted to come over to my house and talk it out. I normally go to bed early, but I told him to come on by.
We talked and I heard his side of the story. He felt taken advantage of. He couldn't understand all the legal terms the landlord used in their argument. He thought for sure that the landlord was using those words to be intentionally confusing.
My friend also felt vulnerable as an immigrant who doesn't speak the language very well. He was sure that the police would be on the landlord's side if they came because the landlord could communicate with them more clearly. And lastly, he was sad that he might lose his business.
I offered to translate a conversation between he and the landlord so that they could understand each other better. My friend agreed to call me the next day when the landlord came around. Next day, I got a call from my friend, and we were on speaker phone with the landlord.
I decided that it would be healthy for all of us to hear the landlord out and not assume that he was a villain. I didn't want to automatically be on my friend's side. I wanted to be objective. The landlord expressed that he always had a great relationship with my friend.
He did the handshake deal to make it easier on my buddy. It had been a trust-based relationship all these years. The landlord had been proud that he was able to help a small business owner get started in business.He had enjoyed watching my friend build his clientele and thrive over the years.
He cared about my friend and wanted to support him. The landlord hadn't come over to demand higher rent. He had come over to talk about it. There is inflation and a lot of the common area costs have gone up.
To keep from going underwater, it was only fair to raise the rent some. But when he came over to discuss the issue, my buddy immediately got upset and thought the landlord was trying to take advantage.
I could hear in the landlord's voice that he was hurt. He wasn't taking advantage. He cared. And now he felt that this person who he'd helped all these years was taking him for granted and being unappreciative.
The whole thing was a giant misunderstanding.
My buddy thought the landlord was demanding an increase when in fact he just wanted to talk about it. The landlord thought my friend was being unappreciative when he actually felt he was being taken advantage of. All that was needed was a forum for talking it out calmly.
There are always hidden feelings in any argument. I'm sure of it.
One of the greatest lessons of all time was watching my brother convince cacao farmers to work with us. We knew what we wanted. We wanted to buy cacao and process it ourselves in a centralized processing facility.
But it was a totally new way of doing things and cacao farmers were not intuitively convinced that it would work. Instead of blustering and telling those folks that we knew what we were doing, and that they should trust us and get on board, Brian methodically interviewed farmers and heard what their doubts were. We updated our operating plan to address the doubts.
Our solution specifically addressed their concerns while also achieving our goals. Molding our solution to their desires made the whole thing work so much better. But you can't do that without allowing the other side to express themselves.
Those underlying concerns that aren't shared superficially need to be teased out. Without knowing the root cause of resistance or conflict, the problem won't be solved.
This is the same with sales by the way. I've been either a salesman or an accountant for most of my adult life. The easiest way to sell something to somebody is to know what they want or need. You find that out by listening and digging towards the roots.
Once you know what they want or need, you just tell them how your product or solution helps with the root issue.
Between my friend and the landlord, once the root issues were exposed, both sides could easily understand where the other was coming from and they came to an agreement very quickly.
It takes a fair amount of patience and discipline to not jump in and start advocating for your way of doing things, but the effort to control yourself and hear the other person out is worth it.
This works for marriage and kids too.
Anyhow, thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!