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November 26, 2014 No Comments

We asked some of the folks at Miles Mediation to share some favorite Thanksgiving memories and traditions. No surprise most of the things mentioned included family, laughter and the shining star of the day: food.

Joe Murphey – Team Captain
Twenty-seven years ago, my then-future mother-in-law Marcia and I collaborated on cooking a turkey. We somehow survived the ordeal, and the turkey was spot-on. This year, we will make it 27 perfectly roasted, mouth-watering turkeys in a row.

Many folks travel to be with family on Thanksgiving. Susan and I have been blessed to have be Thanksgiving Day home-base for both of our families — now for nearly three decades. This year my parents, her parents, our kids, some friends and a Swedish exchange student will all pull up a chair to the table to dig in to Turkey #27. For that we are truly thankful.

Keyonna Calloway – Receptionist
My favorite Thanksgiving tradition is every year my family and I put on a talent show. After we’ve eaten, we all gather in the living room area with hot cocoa or adults have their beverage of choice. From the babies to the elders, everyone portrays a different talent. We all laugh and enjoy the show. The best offering I’ve seen so far was a spoken word skit that my younger cousins did about how family is really important.

I’m thankful that there is a time of the year to reflect, although we should daily but due to busy schedules we tend to forget. Those are laughs and memories that will stay with me forever. I will keep the tradition going when I start my own family. Those talents — each and every one of them — reside in my mind and play back. It warms my heart to see everyone not worrying about all the daily problems and enjoying family at that moment. Priceless.

Greg Parent – Team Captain
I love Thanksgiving. Over the years, it’s gone from spending the day with very close friends, to hosting it for my family, to traveling back home to North Carolina to spend it with my folks. I’ve always spent that day with my folks. And we also have turkey, stuffing, rolls, and cookies.

For more than a decade, my family has had nothing but fried turkeys, injected with Creole seasonings. Before that, we had the traditionally-baked turkeys. Frying the turkeys is quicker, if not a little more dangerous.

The friends have changed faces over the years. We’ve added spouses, grand kids, and new traditions, but it’s still a thankful time to be with family, eat good food, and watch football. And nap. Tryptophan can have that affect on a body.

The newest tradition, that I’ve participated in with my wife over the past five years, is standing in line for Black Friday sales. It was a tradition that my wife and her sister had when they were younger. As time passes and they split time with their respective in-laws, they are not always in the same town. So I became the Black Friday shopping partner. Most times I’d rather get a root canal than battle all of humanity for a few discounted items. But then again, the competition of trying to battle for a 600-piece box of Legos can be a little addictive.

David Nutter – Team Captain
My favorite Thanksgiving memory is Thanksgiving 1973 when my family went to New York to see the Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade itself, of course, was awesome. Watching the mighty parade balloons coming down the street was a dream come true for a kid from South Florida.

After a long exciting day, we wearily went in search of a good Thanksgiving dinner. My mom decided, “Hey I’m in New York, I’m not having Turkey.” By this point of the day her bratty kids (my middle sister and me) were driving her crazy and she was ready to sit down with a cocktail and her non-Turkey Thanksgiving dinner. Well, at the particular eatery we wandered into, the dear table server made it her mission to convince my mom that she just had to have turkey for dinner, because it was Thanksgiving, after all. My mom firmly insisted again that she did not want turkey. The table server, a New York original if there ever was one, insisted equally firmly that the very honor of the Pilgrims was at stake–that she had to have Turkey. “Awe honey, now come on, it’s Thanksgiving, you just gotta have turkey.” My mom, at this point beyond all frustration, pleadingly said, “I don’t want turkey.” A whole new round began. Finally, my mom gave up, retreated to her drink, and with resignation said, “Fine, I’ll have turkey.”

The server, thinking she had done a great good for my mom, triumphantly marched off to the kitchen. My dad, my sister and I sat in stony silence as my mother glowered at all of us, no doubt thinking that the server was somehow secretly in league with us to drive her completely insane. Five minutes later, the server returned with a very glum look and said to my mom, “Honey, I’ve got bad news for yus, we ain’t got no turkey.”

With that my mom and dad burst out laughing, with one of those cathartic laughs that can’t be stopped even if you want to. For minutes they laughed and laughed and laughed until tears rolled from their eyes. In fact, in all of their lives I never knew them to laugh as hard or as long as they did that night. The server seemed relieved and a bit confused that mom and dad were not angry that they could not get turkey on Thanksgiving. And she could not quite understand what exactly was so funny, but she decided to join in on the laugh any way. Laughter seems to work that way. We have all long forgotten what we actually ate that Thanksgiving night 41 years ago, but we have often remembered the humor of that moment. And just as was the case that night, with every retelling we have laughed afresh, and our spirits have been renewed.

Sydney Thaxton – Office Manager

Growing up we’d go to Bainbridge, Georgia, my maternal grandparents’ home for Thanksgiving. Every morning from Wednesday morning until Saturday we had coffee, grits, fresh cured bacon, deer sausage, farm raised eggs and when my grandmother was living, we had her homemade biscuits and mayhaw jelly.

Wednesday night was always “Chili Night” because my aunt would bring a large pot of her famous savory chili and rolls. Thursday was the big garden-grown, home raised feast: Fried turkey, smoked turkey, ham, variety of game (depending on what my uncles caught ie . . . quail, squirrel, deer, alligator, duck, frog legs, etc.), candied yams, dressing and gravy, collard greens, turnip greens both of which were from my uncle’s garden, baked mac-n-cheese, rice, lima beans or succotash, cranberry sauce, green beans, sweet potato pie, pecan pie and when grandmother was living, four-layer chocolate cake. Friday night was fish fry and bon fire. The menfolk would stand around the fire in the cold and fry the fish and homemade potato fries. The women would be in the house making the cold slaw and battering/seasoning the fish and potatoes to be sent outside to fry.

There was always plenty of fresh sugar cane to peel and chew on while having political debates, solving one another’s problems and sharing many, many laughs.

The entire Miles Mediation family is grateful for all our clients and customers. We wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving Day 2014 full of laughter, love and good food.

November 19, 2014 No Comments

A New Day in Court, John Miles first book on mediation, was published in 2012. An insider’s look into the process, Miles recently offered insights learned while researching for the book – as well as why it would benefit all parties involved in dispute resolution.

Why did you write the book? I wanted to learn why people, particularly plaintiffs, decided to settle the case or decided to go to trial. I suspected that many times, the reason didn’t necessarily involve money.

What did you do as research? From experience I identified four motivators: fear, desire for justice, anger and money.

I designed four questions, one for each motivator. I asked if participants would care to answer the questionnaire before a mediation began. The responses to the questions were: Strongly agree, Agree, Neither agree or disagree, Disagree and Strongly disagree.

The questions were designed so it wasn’t obvious what answer I was looking for – or at least I hoped it wasn’t obvious. We had a company that does market research for small businesses help us.

How many people did you survey? We surveyed about 400 people over a year. Of course, not everyone chose to participate.

Who answered these questions? Everyone: the plaintiff’s attorney, the defense attorney, the insurance adjuster and the plaintiff. I tallied the responses and kept the percentages so that I would know who was responding and how for each motivator. It was the plaintiff’s responses, I found most interesting.

Were there questions after the mediation? Yes. But only the plaintiff got questions after the mediation. I wanted to see if whether they settled or didn’t settle the case changed their motivator.

What did you learn? Most plaintiffs were motivated by things other than money — to pursue the case in the first place, and that motivator had to be addressed if they were going to settle. Before I wrote the book, I assumed everything was about money. In mediations, I intentionally tried to keep the plaintiff’s focus off emotional aspects of their case and onto dollars so they could make a smart economic decision. After writing the book, I learned that the real value of mediation to most plaintiffs was the opposite. They need to process and address emotional aspects of their case.

To illustrate this point, I share in the opening caucus how I never saw my parents argue – ever. Then I got married to Jamie and we would have disagreements. I thought that meant a bad marriage. I either stopped the argument by fleeing or quickly agreed so the disagreement would end. But over the years, Jamie helped me to see when I did that, I wasn’t showing respect to the marriage. I was saying the communication process wasn’t valuable. I’ve learned that communication can be emotional. Sometimes it is in anger. Sometimes it’s messy but that doesn’t mean it’s not necessary.

What has been your response to the book? Now I help parties recognize the motivator and then address that motivator so we are more likely to settle the case.

I remember a case where a young woman injured her back. It didn’t appear to be that serious of a case. The insurance company had offered what I thought was a good money. But as the mediation progressed, she wasn’t moving on the numbers and her attorney couldn’t seem to make her make move downward.

When I would come into the room with the plaintiff and her lawyer, she was very tightlipped. She didn’t want to talk and her attorney had not let her speak in the opening. I noticed she had a folded-up piece of paper in her hand and she held on to it tightly. I asked her what it was. She said, “It is just some things I wrote down but it’s probably stupid.” I asked her attorney if she could show it to me. The woman said I could read it. It was the most beautiful expression of what this had been like for her. She had just had her baby and it was very difficult to hold her baby and take care of her baby because of the back pain. She said, “That will be a year of my life that I’ll never get back. And I worry about my inability to hold and be with my child.”

That was really what the case was all about. Her motivator was not money; her motivator was anger at what had been taken from her.

So I asked if it would be okay to have the insurance adjuster, who happened to be a women, come back in (parties usually don’t get back together after the opening). I asked the adjuster not to say anything but to let the plaintiff read this to her. After the plaintiff read it the insurance adjuster said, “I can understand how this must have been very difficult for you. I’m sorry.” Then she left. We settled the case about a half hour later for pretty close to what the insurance company had offered. That’s a classic illustration on being able to listen and identify the motivator. Before I wrote the book, I would have thought this woman was just difficult. We were not going to settle this case; I was going to have to declare an impasse.

Why should someone buy A New Day in Court? It’s awesome and has lots of cool graphics and pictures.

Seriously, mediation is a very new thing. It’s an area of practice that’s only about 30 years old and constantly evolving. Over the last 10 years, the bar has started to embrace it more. A book with practical insights benefits anyone who chooses to or is being forced to mediate.

Was there anything on the Defense side that surprised you? Insurance adjusters are almost always motivated by justice (as they define it). They feel as guardians of the insurance money so that people who exaggerate injuries or bring fraudulent claims should not profit unjustly. Only those truly injured should receive compensation. They have a very high sense that their job is meaningful and important. Which I think would surprise most plaintiff attorneys. They probably think the insurance company is trying to pinch a penny but that is not their motivation.

Before I wrote the book, I discouraged plaintiffs from speaking in the opening session. Now I encourage it — in fact I invite it – always with plaintiff attorney’s permission. Because for these people, this is their day. It is a big deal.

I will often acknowledge that to the plaintiff in the opening — that probably no one else around the table has a knot in their stomach or maybe didn’t sleep the night before. Or had this date circled on a calendar but the plaintiffs’ did.

At least three times a week when I come into my office building in the morning, I see people sitting on the benches in the lobby and I know exactly who they are. They are people who have gotten there very early because they didn’t know how long it was going to take in traffic. They didn’t know if they should go up to my offices on the 19th floor or whether they should wait there.

Making them comfortable and making them feel that this is their day is critical to having a success mediation. They are the ones that will be most impacted – the plaintiffs. We are giving them a forum to express themselves.

To purchase John’s book or to learn more, please visit: