Journal Entry: Mediation Chapter 3

06/07/2008

Chapter 3 in Mediation is about the process itself, and talks about some of the best practices (characteristics) in terms of what is necessary for successful (constructive) mediation in theory (p. 46). The 5 characteristics of  constructive mediation are a safe environment, where disputants feel comfortable taking part in the process of mediation (pp. 53-55), collaborative communication, where the communication between disputants is reframed from a win/lose perspective to a we win perspective (pp. 47-48), power management where disputants are empowered to speak and participate in mediation as equals no matter what their rank role, or place outside of mediation (pp. 48-50), process management, by which mediation allows each person to feel respect, have a voice, and get a chance to participate in a fair way through the process itself (pp. 50-53), and finally face management, where hurtful or questionable statements are kept from going uncorrected so that disputants do not feel as though they’ve lost something just be being part of the narrative process (pp. 55-61).
Towards the end of this chapter, there is an exercise that asks us to “select one of the five characteristics of constructive mediation. Share positive or negative examples of this characteristic from your own lives and careers. Select one of these incidents and prepare two skits for the class, one in which the participants fail to achieve the characteristic, and one on which they do achieve it.” (p. 61) I’ll perform part of this exercise below.

Domenici, K., Domenici-Littlejohn, & Littlejohn, S. W. (2001). Mediation: Empowerment in Conflict Management, Second Edition (2nd ed., p. 198). Waveland Press.

Personal experiential influence:
I select power management and face management. Some positive examples of power management in my own life have been where I have been in a meeting with other people of differing levels of organizational hierarchy, from vice presidents down to coordinators, in which a difficult issue was being discussed, but also in which each person was allowed their full honest say in the matter, without interruption (for the most part) or pulling rank in order to snuff an idea that might be part of the solution. In terms of face management, if someone in one of these situations wanted to gently correct what I had to say, they did it in such a way as to first reinforce the accurate parts of what I had to say, and then use creative phrasing to quietly modify my statement in restatement form.
On the other hand I’ve been in many more meetings where I was carefully reminded that when I speak, I must be careful to remember that I do not speak for everyone, and that I should not state my opinion in such a way as to indicate that my view is the view of all. In one situation I remember clearly, the discussion was about ways that my organization could achieve something as a group in order to boost morale. I have had many conversations a with others in the organization who have said that the last thing they need is an award or a pizza party in order to feel that they are doing a great job, but rather a set of goals that can be clearly and markedly achieved, which might make us feel better inside. I might have said something during the discussion like “Due to conversations I’ve had, I feel that many of the people here feel that the point is not to win something that goes up on a wall, but rather to win something that we can feel proud of from the inside out.” I might have said this in a more diplomatic way, such as “I feel that intrinsic rewards are more important than extrinsic rewards” but regardless, because someone hierarchically higher than me disagreed with my statement, I was quickly stopped from continuing with it, with the statement that what I said was a clear example of what was wrong withour communication style in the organization, and that I should not speak as though I represent the other members of the organization. There’s some truth on both sides.
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Journal Entry: Mediation Chapter 2

06/03/2008

In this chapter, Mediation as a process is described and introduced, much in the same way we do in a very abridged way in the beginning of a mediation session. The ideal role of the mediator as facilitator, empowerer, and face manager (not judge) is described. The benefits of mediation, including convenience, effectiveness, preventative nature, relationship preservation and redefinition, and confidentiality are discussed, if in a somewhat biased way. The types of mediation are also discussed. At the end of the chapter there is an interesting exercise which asks us the look at one definition of mediation, and to dismantle it in order to see what aspects of the process are lost when those definitive elements are removed.

Domenici, K., Domenici-Littlejohn, & Littlejohn, S. W. (2001). Mediation: Empowerment in Conflict Management, Second Edition. (2nd), 198. Waveland Press.

Personal experiential influence:

Mediation: A confidential, voluntary process where a neutral third party facilitates negotiation between two or more parties with mutually acceptable agreement as one possible outcome (Domenici, et al., 1991, p. 43).

Without confidentiality, mediation could be embarrassing, fear generating, or hurtful to disputants.
Without being voluntary, mediation generated agreements might be less likely to hold.
Without neutrality, the mediator could have a powerful influence on outcomes they themselves want.
Without facilitation, mediation could degrade into chaotic name calling.
Without all parties present, mediation could reinforce barriers between disputants.
Without mutually acceptable agreements, they will be less likely to be actually agreed to by all parties.
With mandated agreements, disputants might be unwilling to accept outcomes.


Journal Entry: Mediation Chapter 1

06/03/2008

This chapter introduces the reader to the ways in which we deal with conflict, and makes the point that for some, conflict is an opportunity, and for others, conflict is something to be avoided. If we as disputants have these differing views towards conflict, it may be difficult to begin to address the issue, as someone with high conflict avoidance and someone with low conflict avoidance will likely agitate each other in their handling methods, adding to the conflict. Accommodation, in which we simply suppress our own interests in order to settle a conflict, Competition, in which we see conflict as a win/lose proposition, compromise, in which we both give up something in order to reach an agreement, and collaboration, where we agree to work together to not only solve a problem, but improve the situation that resulted in the conflict, re each examples of the different ways in which we might react to a given conflict.

With all of this in mind, it gives one insight into some reasons why some conflcts seem doomed to stagnate and build, while others are resolved with very little effort at all. In later chapters we look at some environmental, cultural, and historical reasons why some conflicts are easier or harder to work though, but this chapter really looks at the personas of disputants and how a mediator’s awareness of these stances can help keep a dispute from becoming a roadblock.

Domenici, K., Domenici-Littlejohn, & Littlejohn, S. W. (2001). Mediation: Empowerment in Conflict Management, Second Edition. (2nd), 198. Waveland Press.

Personal experiential influence:

In my own conflicts in life, the contingencies of a particular conflict definitely shapes that way in which I react and deal with it. The importance with which I regard the outcome, the longevity of the outcome of the conflict, and the past relationships I’ve had with other disputants all shape whether I try to collaborate, avoid, accommodate or compete with the disputant.

For instance, we can take the same situation, let’s say where another person says something derogatory about my appearance, and depending on the other person, I will react either by remaining quiet (avoidance), discussing the reasons I look the way I do and how it relates to the way they look (collaborate), agree with them, and maybe add how my hair’s all messed up (accommodate), or tell them that I, at the very least, know how to pick out a good shirt (compete).


Journal Entry: Mediation Chapter 7

05/25/2008

This chapter reminds us that mediation is more than simply staying out of court. It talks about the ways in which we individually and collectively and societally perceive conflict. We can see it as a form of war, in which there are winners, losers, and prisoners, or we can see it as opportunity, or as noted in the text, as a dance.

Notably, the concepts presented in Chapter 4 of New Directions on the Interpretive model are introduced here as well. The interpretive model shows three ways in which reality might be perceived in relation to conflict: Moral reality, in which our sense of right and wrong determine the more correct solution, Conflict Reality, in which we determine what conflict is and how it should be handled (e.g. war or dance) and Justice Reality, in which we determine what is the most just outcome, such as Solomon’s division of the baby might suggest.

Personal experiential influence:

Finally, there is a suggestion in an exercise to develop our own metaphor for mediation, which I personally found to be a very useful exercise. My metaphor was mediation as steam engine.

Pressure is building due to the combustion of conflicting sides, and without the strong structure of mediation holding the path of the energy, the engine itself could burst. The productive outcome is the work being done by the engine, though the engine itself could be used to do many different kinds of work: solving property disputes, improving work relations, devising innovative outcomes, etc. The fuel for the engine is the willingness and trust of the participants. The steam that is building could be released and scald someone, or it could continue through the strong guide of the engine and be productive. The edges of the engine are not fire, not steam, not fuel, not the work itself, but are essential for those other elements to work together to be productive.

Domenici, K., Domenici-Littlejohn, & Littlejohn, S. W. (2001). Mediation: Empowerment in Conflict Management, Second Edition (2nd ed., p. 198). Waveland Press.


Journal Entry: Mediation Chapter 6

05/24/2008

This chapter focuses on the concerns in mediation practices, and specifically focuses on four concerns: Appropriateness, use of caucus, confidentiality, and ethics (p. 117).

Appropriateness refers to the ability to use mediation effectively in order to work to resolve a dispute. In some cases, such as these where disputants are being coerced to mediate, have a long standing reinforced distrust that mediation may fail to bypass, or where legal issues, abuse, or immense sums of money are involved, mediation may not be the best choice, though it may be a good starting point for beginning to encourage communication between parties on their way to other dispute resolution methodologies (pp. 117-121).

The use of caucus is a concern because it potentially works against the most effective aspects of mediation, e.g. bringing parties to the table, and engaging in face to face communication with openness and transparency (pp. 121-123).

Ethics of course is always a concern in mediation, since trust, openness, transparency, and commitment require that all parties are there in good faith, that the mediator is not leading the process, nor biased for or against any of the disputants. It is important that mediators are always asking themselves if they have lost their impartiality, and if so to remove themselves from the process or if possible, refuse their own biases and question their own assumptions (pp. 123-126).

Finally, confidentiality is a concern because without it, disputants may be reluctant to participate at all. In order to gain trust, open up, and focus on positive outcomes, it is important to be able to get all relevant information out on the table. That can only happen in some cases if that information goes no further than that room. The mediators must let everyone know up front (in the introduction) that information recorded during the mediation, (other than the agreement itself, if reached), will be destroyed and carried no further (pp. 127-129).

Domenici, K., Domenici-Littlejohn, & Littlejohn, S. W. (2001). Mediation: Empowerment in Conflict Management, Second Edition. (2nd), 198. Waveland Press.

Personal Experiential Influence:

The appropriateness of mediation in context is an interesting topic. I can think of several situations in which mediation would have been more or less appropriate in my life: Small hallway skirmishes in high school might have benefited from mediation, and small jobs in design, where I lost thousands of dollars in unpaid consultant fees, would definitely have benefited from the parties having the opportunity to voice their opinions. I’ve also encountered conflict in the car, where someone cuts me off, or fails to signal – it wouldn’t be apropos to bring that party into a mediation session, for instance. In the design case, We missed our day in court because we decided to stay out of court and use an conflict avoidance approach, but we might have agreed to mediation.


Journal Entry: Mediation Chapter 5

05/24/2008

This chapter talks about the when and how of using the basic tools we learned about in Ch. 4. (p. 99) One question to keep in mind: “What do I want to accomplish, or what do I hope will happen, at this point in mediation?” (p. 100)

The concept of the goal triangle is introduced, in which we see the cooperative goals of building empowerment and recognition, building community consciousness, and building commitment. By engaging in mediation, we are perfectly enabled to meet these goals, whereas in other forms of dispute resolution, such as judicial proceedings, these goals are unrecognized and possibly unattainable. For instance if we are given a judgment against us, we may not feel particularly committed to it, but are coerced to follow the orders of the judgment. In transformative mediation, we collaboratively develop solutions and listen to others’ ideas for solution (empowerment and recognition), which potentially makes it easier to commit to them, because they are our collective solutions which benefit the disputants as well as others, potentially (community consciousness); the solutions are ours, and thus we own them (providing an easy path to commitment) (pp. 100-104).

In a section about appreciation, we are reminded to have disputants remember and try to celebrate what makes them interdependent: What is your best vision for the future? What would the situation be like without your differences? (pp. 104-105)

Co-mediation is discussed as beneficial in complex cases, cases where there is a lack of experience with mediation in one of the mediators, high tension disputes, longer sessions, etc. However, co-mediation can introduce problems as well, such as increased costs, and the potential for divergent mediation style (pp. 105-107).

The chapter then goes on to explore issues of diversity and cultural awareness. It suggests the following techniques for meeting diverse cultural needs in mediation. Expect different expectations, don’t assume understanding, listen carefully, seek ways to allow parties to appreciate each other, be patient, go for win/win solutions, do things differently. By keeping an open mind and watching for culturally influenced reactions, mediators can avoid potential new conflicts within mediation (pp. 108-114).

Finally, we are introduced to the LARC Model, which is a mnemonic acronym for listen, acknowledge, respond, commit. Figure 5.2 on page 116 describes the finer points of the LARC model, such as asking questions to clarify as part of the listen directive, and suggesting positive resources for change as part of the respond directive (pp. 114-116).

Domenici, K., Domenici-Littlejohn, & Littlejohn, S. W. (2001). Mediation: Empowerment in Conflict Management, Second Edition. (2nd), 198. Waveland Press.

Personal experiential influence:

I really enjoyed learning about the mediation Goal Triangle, in which we as mediators work on building empowerment and recognition between disputants, building community consciousness through the mediation process, and building commitment in the disputants, or rather helping them to build it themselves.

I think that building empowerment is mostly accomplished by allowing disputants to use their own voice to address the issues, rather than having the stroy told thorugh representatives, like in a legal proceeding.

I think that building recognition is accomplished by mandating active listening as part of the mediation process – what better way to get disputants to hear the others point of view than to require silent active listening and single speakers?

Community consciousness is almost a byproduct of mediation itself – if disputants find success in dealing with the conflict through mediation, they may take those newly found skills out into the world where they can begin to virally infect other conflictors with active listening, collaborative problem solving, and conflict as opportunity.

Because disputants use their own words, and agree throughout with reframed ideas, restatements, and respectful language, it is more likely than other forms of dispute resolution in gaining true commitment.


Mediation Introduction Script revision

05/24/2008

Welcome to our mediation session, and thank you for participating. Please let me introduce myself: I’m John LeMasney, a trained mediator with Mediation Solutions, and I’ve been asked here to facilitate your mediation session. Could you please, each in turn, say your name, your role in this dispute (in a few words), and then please say the phrase “I’m here to make this better.” Please respect others’ right to speak. I’ll start. I’m John, I’m the co-mediator for this session, and I’m here to make this better.

[participants introduce themselves]

Very good! The fact that you’re all here is a great first step towards making this better. Congratulations on your bravery, commitment, and your willingness to participate in this unique process.

Mediation is simply a facilitated discussion of your differences. It gives us an opportunity to improve the existing situation while staying out of court and other more formal structures. We believe that you can solve this yourselves, and obviously you do too, by your presence. In this room, we are neither judges nor arbiters. While we’re here we are also not consultants, advisors, or lawyers. We are here simply to provide a structure for your conversation. We will work to give you the best chance at understanding each other, listening to each other, and finding out the full reasons why you’re at odds. You can resolve this issue, using your own words, on your own terms, collaboratively, as a team.

Regarding what’s permissible here: Common courtesy and mutual respect are mandated in order for this to work. Only one person speaks at a time, preferably after they are addressed, without interruption; verbal, nonverbal, or physical interjections should be reserved until it is your turn to speak. Feel free to use these notepads in order to take notes to remind yourself of points you wish to address.

Now, please take a look at this confidentiality agreement, sign it, and return it. This is a way for us in this room to begin to feel safe about speaking freely. What occurs here should stay here, and you should know that all notes and other recordings, aside from our agreement itself, will be destroyed at the end of our mediation. The agreement will hold all that we wish to retain of our work here. We hope that you will be able to simply let go of any negative feelings about each other over time, and any record of our talks tonight might prolong that process.

If for any reason either you or we feel that a separate meeting is necessary for any reason, such as the need to address or unearth a confidential issue in depth, each of us can request such a meeting.

Now, let’s review and sign the agreement to mediate, and thanks again for your participation. We believe that your effort will be rewarded.

Does anyone have any questions before we begin?

Domenici, K., Domenici-Littlejohn, & Littlejohn, S. W. (2001). Mediation: Empowerment in Conflict Management, Second Edition (2nd ed., p. 198). Waveland Press.