Monday, June 21, 2010

Slipperiness and Mediation

I had the pleasure of teaching a graduate class in mediation and public policy dispute resolution this spring. Boy did I learn a lot. I'm pretty sure most of the students did, too.

One of the things I learned is just how slippery the essential approaches of mediation are for many people. In mediation, we don't tell people what to do or decide who wins. We try to help people have a conversation, to express the things they need to say. We work to create an environment where they can hear each other.

In the culture we live in, people are often in a hurry, often on the offensive, and often offering advice, solicited or not. It's difficult to find the space, and the patience, to engage with someone we disagree with. I was challenged in this recent class, to help students find this new perspective of patience and listening and engagement on a deeper level. I found that I was struggling at times to be patient myself.

Fortunately, it was a rather bright and curious group, and we were able to wrestle together to figure out some interesting things. Sometimes when I'm being passionate in trying to show people how important it is to listen, surprise surprise, I need to temper that passion by listening myself. Listening to the students helped me "get it" about what was not being presented clearly enough and what they needed to move forward.

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