Dr. Dan Shapiro of the Harvard Program on Negotiation makes a simple proposal for moving forward when a party is angered by some aspect of a negotiation. Ask them why they are upset. It is best to make this an “I” statement. For example, consider asking “Is there something that I said (or s/he said) that has caused you to have this negative reaction?”. Encourage them to talk about the issue that is on their mind. The late radio psychologist, Dr. Joy Browne, often advised “Be curious not furious”. Consider ways to encourage conversation and not ways that tends to stifle the free exchange that is needed.
The current movie about divorce is named “Marriage Story”. This represents an irony. A further complication is that the movie has no winners nor losers; there is likewise no hero and no villain. In this manner, the movie is like many divorces. No one truly comes out ahead. However, Alan Alda’s role as a divorce attorney points out a basic truism. To many attorneys a divorce is simply another transaction that must be managed. The Alda attorney prefers to view the players in the divorce scenario as “people”. This is not poetry in motion, but it is a truism. Mediation helps the parties re-gain a sense of their humanity and decency. Litigation is not geared to such an outcome. litigation can be said to view the drama as another transaction. Mediation remembers that there are people involved and people affected by the divorce activity. Mediate don’t litigate is more than a pithy catch-phrase. It is the (only) way to ensure that people going through marital dissolution are always viewed as people in need of proper treatment. It may not make for great poetry but it is often the best result that can be effected by divorce professionals. Civil divorce is possible. Mediation makes that happen with great success. Mediation is worth a dedicated try for that very reason.
The online version of The Atlantic magazine (October 2019)has a good read on General James Mattis, entitled “The Man Who Couldn’t Take it Anymore” by Jeffrey Goldberg. The follow snippet is insightful to all who practice mediation. “‘ General Mattis quotes President Lincoln’s famous phrase “With malice toward none, with charity for all”. The General then sums up the impact of the statement in just a few words: “Lincoln said that in the middle of a war. In the middle of a war. He could see beyond the hatred of the moment.”
Many disputes such as divorce disputes, family disputes, etc. can easily contain toxic issues and conversation. But families need to get back together again and divorcing couples with children need to co-parent once again. How does one put the rancor of the immediate challenge. “See beyond the hatred of the moment.” There is no choice nor alternative. Negativity carried to the extreme can destroy people. Futures can be ruined. What is the solution. “See beyond the hatred of the moment”. Mediate don’t litigate.