A good mediator must be a good listener. What happens when one feels s/he is being heard? William Ury, mediator guru, sums it all up in one sentence: “When you listen to someone, it’s the most profound act of respect.” Many complain in life that they are not “being heard”. It is often no wonder; we are looking at i-phones, computer screens, and breaking news on our tablets. What does that do for one’s feeling of self-worth and esteem. A good mediator listens. If successful, she can get the parties to listen to each other. Once respect enters the equation, all becomes possible. Win-Win is not too far behind. Te Dalai Lama said it this way: “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” Respect, listen, resolve your dispute.
The Program on Negotiation (PON) of Harvard University, published an article (September 20, 2018) entitled “The Pitfalls of Negotiating Over Email”. We probably know intuitively that Email is not a perfect communication vehicle. The post discusses some of its weaknesses. It is difficult to read a statement on paper, and determine if the writer is serious, joking, angry, sarcastic, etc. The tonal aspect is missing in an Email. A person learns much from trying to read the body language and non-verbal communication of another party. Email makes this an impossibility. Certain comments may unintentionally come across as curt or impolite in an Email due to the informality we bestow on such communication. You can establish rapport with another, even an adversary, when the party is present. Rapport with an Email is a non-event.
President Lyndon Johnson liked to talk about meeting people and “pressing the flesh”. A negotiation via Email is lacking in the human touch. The conclusion seems to be this: If something is important, say it in person. Leave the social media to the nation’s politicians. Mediate/negotiate; don’t litigate.
A mediator is a professional who helps parties involved in disputes avoid reaching an impasse. But the Mediator may truly be able to impact on lives in ways not conveyed in a simple job-description. Because of her/his role of trust, a Mediator might find that there is a role to play in the following mental health areas:
1. Because of the burdens of being in a conflict situation, a person might be suffering from anxiety, depression, insomnia, etc. It would not be inappropriate for a mediator to lightly touch on the topic of seeking therapeutic help when a person or persons seems to be exhibiting “battle fatigue”. (It might well be possible to discuss this in a caucus situation.)
2. A couple seeking divorce mediation, may be well-served to first seek out the assistance of a marital therapist. While this advice might short-circuit a potential fee, there is a potentially “higher profit” in the making. A timely referral in such an event is an indication of the concern and caring that prompt many people to seek a career in the mediation field.
3. It has been said that in a divorce the only parties truly non-responsible for the turn of events are the children. Mediation process offers opportunities to remind the parties of their obligations to ensure the mental health of the children of the marriage.
The above examples are only the “tip of the iceberg”. If you are a mediator, consider how your duties may well include providing “full service” to your clients.
An article outlining the differences between mediation, arbitration, and litigation was prepared by the staff of the Program on Negotiation (PON) at Harvard Law School. The article can be found at: http://www.pon.harvard.edu/daily/dispute-resolution/what-are-the-three-basic-types-of-dispute-resolution-what-to-know-about-mediation-arbitration-and-litigation. The article describes mediation as a process that engages the parties. The main figure in arbitration becomes the factfinder or judge. The actors in litigation are the attorneys. One can make the decision that is best for their circumstance. Would you like to be the central player as the parties are in mediations? Do you prefer the easier track of having a third party decide the matter for you. Or would you prefer to let the “warring” attorneys try to jawbone until an agreement or a decision is finally reached? There might be reasons to prefer the latter two options. However, if you desire Win-Win, and an easier and less costly solution, you will be well advised to avoid litigation. 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).