Kenneth Feinberg is the attorney who spent over 40 years serving as a special “master” mediator on a variety of highly challenging cases. They include resolving financial disputes between Vietnam veterans who sued the manufacturers over injuries caused by their poisonous herbicide Agent Orange, the BP Oil Spill of 2010 and most famously, the 9-11 Victims who applied to the Victims Compensation Board.
His successful career of meeting needs by getting agreements between the parties is the result of several important presentation skills. They include:
- Being truly present for all parties. As he said “you gain a lot of credibility just showing up” when people are extremely upset and want to vent.
- Active listening to all parties. Paying attention to what they say – both content and emotional value – so the parties truly feel heard
- Staying calm, especially if tempers rage from the parties, which happens often in such difficult cases
- Sharing the credit with others, by seeking areas of agreement in conversations and building on them
- Keeping your word. Throughout his 50-year career he followed this advice: “you don’t waver. You don’t change your mind”.
- Contrasting a decision you might make with the alternative in order to clearly see the different outcomes.
Having seen too many lives torn apart by cruel fate, he also has seen enormous resilience in facing the situation. His presentation style helps people find the strength to do so. Good lessons for all of us.