Friday, September 19, 2008

Create Space for Emotions in Mediation

A recent newspaper article encouraged workers to use their emotional intelligence at work. The idea was that we should not hold all our emotions “in” because if we do so, we may not be able to build relationships with the people around us day in and day out.

Also, for those who follow NFL football, Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers, who just finished a 2 game suspension for punching a teammate (Lucas) in practice, reported that he and the player he punched now have a cordial and building friendship. Previously, these two players were seen to be at odds. So what changed? Smith says that he previously did not like Lucas because he believed that Lucas did not like him. (Same from Lucas.) However, after a team meeting where everyone had a chance to say their piece. It turned out that Smith and Lucas did not like each other because they thought the other did not like him. Talk about a self fulfilling prophesy. With the air cleared the team and teammates came together.

Thus, if we take these two ideas together and add them to our work as mediators, then be sure you check in with participants on an emotional level in mediation. Consider how you can create a comfortable space for participants to express how they feel and then “manage” the emotions if necessary. Mediation in the litigated case is often the participant’s “day in court” so it can be essential to provide an opportunity for emotions to help with the resolution.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Conflict Defined

Each Fall semester I teach a class – Mediation Theory & Practice - for the Conflict Resolution Department at UNC Greensboro. This is part of a Masters program and the students come from many different walks of life with a common interest in conflict resolution. I also teach this class online. In our first meeting I take the class through an exercise called “Defining Conflict” in which we consider our perspective on “conflict.” The last step in the exercise is to come up with one word definitions of conflict that are positive or constructive in nature.

Check out this year’s great list of words:

Catalyst – Communication – Creativity – Growth – Maturation – Rethinking – Evolving – Motion – Quest – Adventure – Relationship – Building – Change – Revitalization – Growth – Opportunity – Revolution – Renew – Resolution - Restoration - Bridging - Enlightenment - Dialogue - Disentanglement – Engagement – Movement – Workout – Differences – Learning – Curiosity – Understanding – Transformation – Challenge – Progress – Juncture – Path

So, the next time you get discouraged in a mediation, pull out your handy pocket note card with these words on it and then get back to work!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day Reflection

For many folks, this past Labor Day week-end is a recognition and celebration of work! I started thinking about our work as mediators and how should we celebrate? Initially, I thought about “what is mediation” and then realized it’s not about “what,” it’s about “how.”

Here’s my take on the “how” at a macro level with Labor Day in mind. As mediators we practice both a science (the science of negotiation, personal interaction, etc.) and an art (intuitive understanding, empathy, etc.). For me, being a mediator is a craft. It is something I continually study, seek to master and improve. I can find new ways to conduct the process as long as I am reflective about what I do. Be a reflective practitioner.

Here’s an easy way to give this a try. The next time you serve as mediator; do something differently from how you usually do it. It could be as simple as how you introduce yourself or how you describe your role as mediator or . . . You’ll think of something and when you do and put it into action – then you are being reflective! This first step should lead you to consider why you do the things that you do as mediator. We know that there is a reason for each word we chose, each caucus we direct and the list goes on and on.

And in your reflection, in your consideration of the “how” and “why,” you celebrate that which is mediation. Enjoy your days of labor as mediator!