The Cat’s on the Roof and Won’t Come Down!
How information is given and received can make or break any deal to be done in a mediation.
Many of you may well have heard the following Dave Allen story, but if you are like me, it is such a classic that you can never hear it enough times and it will always make you laugh…
A husband and wife had been married for over 25 years and in that time they had only ever been on holiday once. Now that their children had left home and they had a little extra cash, they booked a week away in a luxury 5 star hotel.
After just one night at the hotel they received a telephone call from their good friend and neighbour to tell them that their cat had been run over and killed. The wife was distraught and felt she wanted to return home immediately, which they did.
The husband (who had never liked cats) was, to the say the least, somewhat peeved that their holiday had been cut short so abruptly. He met with his neighbour and asked him if he could have broken the news more gently.
The neighbour was somewhat puzzled. “How do you think I could have done that?” “Well,” replied the husband, “On the first day you could have phoned us and said, “the cat’s on the roof and won’t come down, but don’t worry I am getting a ladder Then the next day you could have phoned us and said that the cat had got stuck in the chimney and the fire brigade were there and had dropped food down the chimney for the cat. Then the next day you could have said that the cat was stuck on a ledge half way down the chimney but seemed to be coping well. On the next day you could then have said that unfortunately the cat hadn’t made it. That way I would have at least had a few days break.”
A few years later, with no cat or other pets to give cause for concern, the husband managed to persuade the wife to go on a holiday again. On the very first night they received a phone call from the neighbour saying, “ I am really sorry to bother you, but your mother’s on the roof and won’t come down!”
Many is the time in a mediation when a mediator has to step back and think about how information he/she has been asked to take to the other side will be received. A good mediator won’t play the dumb messenger and good legal advisers will also be thinking about the effect any information passed will be received. Whether that information is an offer to settle or new evidence that has come to light, consideration should always be given as to how that information should delivered and the consequences of a poor delivery.
Fortunately I have never had to give any news about a cat or indeed anybody’s mother!
Suzanne Lowe MD, Talk Mediation Ltd