(1) Remember what Michael Corleone said:??this isn?t personal, it?s strictly business?As much as this is going to feel like a personal attack on you, it?s not. You?re not really in any physical danger so you have to keep things in perspective. Remember that the outcome you?re looking for is to be paid as much as possible as soon as possible. You?re not looking for revenge, to even the score or to right a wrong. With this in mind, you have a clear goal to focus on. You can then make a plan to achieve this goal and this puts you in control. When you?re in control, you automatically feel calmer and your stress levels go down accordingly.
(2) Remember your client will also be feeling stressed, and probably even more stressed than you if he feels like he?s under attackYou don?t want your client making emotional decisions focused on protecting themselves. You want them to make a logical decision to pay you! For them to do this, they need to be relatively calm and not feeling defensive. This will go against all of your natural instincts. You will want to be on the attack, but don?t be. Demonstrate control and remember, you?re not doing this to make them feel better. You?re doing this for your own benefit because if your client is less stressed, you?re more likely to be paid the money you?re owed.
(3)?Set an?agreed?agenda for the mediation and then stick to itThe important point here is that the agenda is?agreed. When you?re arranging the mediation, set an agenda outlining the points that both you and your client want to discuss. To do this, your client must be invited to contribute to this. This will give you both the opportunity to properly prepare for the mediation and not feel like you?re being ambushed. Remember, mediation isn?t a trial where someone wins and the other loses. You?re trying to achieve a settlement that you?re both happy with so you can avoid going to trial. Having an agreed agenda will dramatically reduce the stress levels for both of you, and if you?re both thinking logically, a settlement automatically becomes more likely.
(4)?Think carefully about the language you are usingDuring negotiations, your language should be assertive, not aggressive. When you?re being assertive you explain your point of view with logic, reasoning and with as little emotion as possible. You make the business case for why you should be paid. When you?re being aggressive, there?s less explanation and the explanations you give are not necessarily fully thought through. Your emotions rule the discussion, leading to two possible outcomes, neither of which are good for you. First, your client will do the same. They?ll fight back to protect themselves. The negotiations then become personal and as a matter of principle, neither one of you will want to back down. Second, if you?re being aggressive and making emotionally charged arguments, your client could take control of the situation. If they control their stress levels and respond assertively, they will use logic and reasoning to pick holes in your emotional arguments. You will then be on the back foot and find it much harder to persuade them why they should be paying your outstanding invoice. The best scenario is for you both to use logic and reasoning to reach an agreed settlement. The mediator should help with this and step in if the discussions become too heated, but by then, it can be too late. Despite your best efforts to keep the situation calm, your client may remain aggressive. This is normally because they know they?re in the wrong and there?s no logical reason why they haven?t paid you. They will put up the strongest fight they can and it?s unlikely that you?ll be able to reach a settlement with them. If you find yourself in this situation, don?t worry. You can take comfort from the fact that if you do take them to court, you?re probably going to be in a very strong position to win. For more information about resolving business disputes, see my previous article How to settle a dispute before taking a case to court. If you have any questions about recovering unpaid invoices, or resolving disputes generally, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I?ll happily answer them for you. Read more advice from David Walker:
- A guide to resolving family business disputes
- An essential checklist for setting up a family business
- Advertising law: Our legal expert answers your questions
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