Studs Terkel was an author, actor, and media presence for decades. In his memoir “Touch and Go” he explains the art of gaining people’s trust in the following way: “The person recognizes that you respect them, because you’re listening. Because you’re listening, they feel good about talking to you.” How does the process of mediation work? For that matter, how does the process of talk therapy work? It is all about respect, and it is all about listening. Mediators have known this for decades. But the human condition works along the same pattern. Listening engenders respect. People like to know they are being heard. Once that element of respect has been formed, further talking becomes inevitable. Talk long enough and you will get to Win-Win. But it all begins, says Mr. Terkel, with respect. Mediate don’t litigate. Litigation leads neither to added respect nor to added purposeful conversation. It will never be an adjunct to mediation.
When historians rate our presidents, they focus on achievements. A likely question is this: How should this person be remembered? What will history think of them? The concept of legacy has surprising nexus to dealing with stressful disputes and negotiations. How it might work will be illustrated by reference to the work of David Brooks of the NY Times.
In 2015, Mr. Brooks wrote a book called “The Moral Bucket List”. In this work, Mr. Brooks divides virtues into two categories. There are resume virtues and moral virtues. Although we spend more time in life trying to develop our resume virtues, we tend to believe that eulogy virtues are more important. How do we wish to be remembered after our life has ended? Hopefully, our eulogy will have less time spent on the jobs we had, with more emphasis on the type of life we led.
If you are involved in e.g. a divorce battle, it is highly likely that having an expert litigator will get you a better financial deal. You will possibly pay less for child support, or for alimony, or a more favorable property split, etc. But at what price will this agreement come about? What will your friends think of you in the future, if you have engaged in contentious battle? What will you children think of you in the future. What, indeed, will you think of yourself in the future? Money is not everything. Moral virtues may very well be so. Want to run up a bucket list of virtues? Seek peace and not necessarily the bigger war-chest. Mediate don’t litigate.
I first took a course in mediation in 1995, in Chicago, IL. One of the volunteer trainers who assisted in this course, called me a number of months later. He told me about a very interesting mediation course that had a very reasonable program fee. I asked why this course was so modestly priced. I was informed that the program was under the auspices of the Mennonite group that is centered in Lombard, IL. This group, I learned, has a religious reason for trying to advance information about mediation.
The Lombard Mennonite Peace Center (LMPC) has as its religious mission the desire to encourage “nonviolent transformation” of conflict in homes, workplaces, and houses of worship. Recently I browsed the internet to learn more about the LMPC. I discovered an article that appeared in the Toledo Blade entitled “Mending Fences”. (May 28, 2016). The author, TK Barger, described a lengthy program that the LMPC offered to Midwestern faith leaders. One of the participants, Rev. Deborah Rose, summed up what she gained from the program by saying that she did not attend the program to learn how to be a mediator. This was not the purpose of the program. Rather, she wished to learn new skills that could assist her in her congregational life. Sometimes, it is good to learn a new skill, such as mediation just so one can make proper referrals to professions when such mediation is appropriate.
The purpose of this blog is not to train mediators. There are professional classes for this purpose. I wish to give the religious population a better idea of what mediation entails and relate some of its important principles. It is my hope that the information found here will assist those whose life of faith leads them to the conclusion that litigation is not the solution to all forms of conflict. There is a choice. Mediate don’t litigate.
My name is Martin Rosenfeld, and I am a mediator who lives in Fair Lawn, NJ. This blog is aimed at people of all faiths who share an interest in making their life one that is dedicated to peaceful outcomes. We all try to avoid conflict, but sometimes we find ourselves enmeshed in controversy and discord. As an attorney, I have seen the harmful effects of litigation and confrontation. Fortunately, there are peaceful ways of resolving disputes. One such method is known as mediation.
In this blog, I will provide information about mediation process and strategies we can all use in an attempt to try to avoid conflict. This information will be aimed at those parties whose religious connection makes them attracted to the idea that conflict is not always inevitable. There are ways that this can be avoided, by resort to mediation. It is also my hope that religious leaders will learn a bit about mediation technique so they can employ some of these methods when their congregants face conflict situations such as monetary, claims, family disputes, divorce, etc. In my next post, I will explain a bit about what inspired me to write this blog for those of faith. If anything you read strikes a chord, feel free to write to me at: Rosenfeld@juno.com. You may also call me at: 201.794.4545 if you wish to share any mediation questions with me. (More mediation information may be found at my website: http://www.NJMediationWorks.com).