Get Your Kryptonite Ready

Most of us have heard of the concept of a strawman argument. Those are the fallacious arguments you can knock over because they distort the premise to make the proponent’s point. A strawman argument might concentrate on something that hasn’t or will never happen or use circular reasoning (our expert is correct because this expert is renown and therefore cannot be wrong.)

In contrast, steelman arguments present the strongest version of your opponent’s case. It is your job to thoroughly investigate your case so you can learn every one of those arguments and figure out the best way to deal with them. Too often attorney and claims people succumb to confirmation bias where they only look at evidence that supports their own position.

Steelman – not Strawman
Whether in negotiation or at trial, in order to get the best result, you must be thoroughly prepared. If you do not take seriously the need for preparation before mediation, you will not be able to settle or to get the best deal. Preparation is not limited to lining up your own arguments. It also includes conceiving your opponent’s strongest arguments and how you will meet them, a technique called steelmanning.

Ideally, you would set up a mock negotiation to force yourself to argue your opponent’s position against another person on your team. Another option is to brainstorm all the possible arguments your opponent could come up with and write each possible argument at the top of a separate page. You’re so smart and know your case so well, you are likely to come up with some that the other side didn’t even know they had. Good! Then—rationally—come up with all the arguments against those positions. This might even require >gasp< legal research. Return to your notes and on each page write the details of how to respond to the position outlined at the top of the page. Remember you are preparing a possible response; don’t mention these issues at the actual negotiation if your opponent hasn’t raised them.

When you have thoroughly explored all the possible arguments against and in support of your case, you are ready for mediation.