Journal Entry New Directions Chapter 12

06/11/2008


Personal Experiential Influence:

I found the idea of the recognizance of authority in mediation as counterproductive as a topic. I was especially conflicted (excuse the pun) about Twylen’s very well presented conversation topic on authority. I feel personally that authority is not necessarily attributed to either plaques, licenses, amount of books owned, length of time in position, or other external (extrinsic) indications of authority. I’ve found in that authority and expertise comes with experience and focused practice.
I know licensed drivers who should not drive, people in high titled authority who disgrace the position, and doctors who should not be in practice. In my opinion, the difference between a great practitioner of technology, for instance, is not the length of time that they have been a titled technologist, or a doctorate in technology, but rather what they’ve done in terms of development, discovery or practice regardless of the time that they’ve spent as a technologist.

It also seems to me that expertise and authority also has to do with the love attributed to craft by a practitioner. The presence provided for tasks at hand. If you do not love the work, or if you are not present in practice, your auhority and expertise are diminished.

Yes, when we walk into an office or other environment an it is full of books, diplomae, notes of thanks, and so on, we may be influenced to believe that the person in front of us is both experienced and of a certain authority. But if in the next ten minutes the discussion washes the diplomas from our thoughts and replaces them with feelings of doubt or even regret due to the way that the conversation has progressed, no amount of books with return the original superficial feeling of expertise and authority. Mediators are no different – the quality of their practice will most likely benefit most from a healthy regard (love) for the practice itself.

Moore, C. W. (1994). Mediator Communication and Influence in Conflict Management Interventions. In J. P. Folger & T. S. Jones (Eds.), New Directions in Mediation: Communication Research and Perspectives (pp. 209-221). Sage Publications, Inc.
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Journal entry: New Directions Chapter 11

06/10/2008
Personal Experiential Influence
This chapter talks about an 800 pound gorilla in the mediation chamber – the one that indicates that mediation theory in the transformative/relational tradition and mediation practice in the problem solving/individualist tradition are at odds, not speaking, and distrustful of one another – which is ironic, considering mediation might be a good way to bring about relatinal understanding between these two groups. They have so much in common – they want to help people, they want to resolve issues, and they want to take all the framing instances and find a common frame. However, because acting upon the criticisms and theoretical analyses of mediation might be considered experimental in real world practice, current mediator training is strictly focused on the practices and ideas that have come before. It is the antithesis of innovation, and seems much more like stagnation. Maybe what needs to happen is something like the case study that occurs in Chapter 12 concerning the Wolf population control issues in Alaska. If we could get critics, mediators, managerial 3rd party practitioners, and disputants who have both succeeded and failed in mediation to participate in a controlled dialogue on the issues of what’s right and wrong in individualistic vs. relational approaches to mediation, maybe we could all find something in common with other extant views.

Rifkin, J. (1994). The Practitioner’s Dilemma. In J. P. Folger & T. S. Jones (Eds.), New Directions in Mediation: Communication Research and Perspectives (pp. 204-221). Sage Publications, Inc.


Journal Entry: New Directions Chapter 10

06/10/2008

Personal Experiential Influence

I found the focus on Community to be extremely interesting in this chapter, because in my quest for leadership opportunities, I have begun this year to pursue a leadership role in my neighborhood as a captain in the my neighborhood’s Community Group. I feel like I’ve been doing all of the right things: I advertise in a few different ways. I gathered feedback about what it was that people wanted out of the group. I established a regular meeting schedule with a neutral, comfortable space. I arranged for speakers. I developed and maintain a web site. I made phone calls and emails and mailing lists and committed myself. I drafted a strategic plan, vision and goals for the group, and got it approved, though not by a quorum, which is the key issue: attendance. Despite 400+ homes in our neighborhood, we struggle to get 15 people to attend each month. This chapter on community gives me some solace.

It talks about the needs of community: to invent the processes that allow people to live together, such as mediation. “Community members struggle with the traditions that bind them and the interests that separate them in order to realize a future that is an improvement upon the present” (Moore, 1996, pp. 198-199). I have found that our largest attendance numbers occurred right after something negative has happened in the community, such as a robbery or car theft. When these issues arise and there is a neutral or quiet response from police or other officials, we look to those around us who shared in the experience in order to help us make sense of it. I’m starting to think that our meeting schedule could become less frequent and perhaps we could begin performing mediations instead of simply meeting to review the police blotter. According to the strategic plan, the neighborhood wants a group that can help us to watch out for each other, perform our civic duty, and celebrate the beauty of the space where we live. Mediation might be a great way to provide some of those goals.

Moore, C. M. (1994). Why Do We Mediate? In J. P. Folger & T. S. Jones (Eds.), New Directions in Mediation: Communication Research and Perspectives (pp. 195-203). Sage Publications, Inc.


Journal Entry: New Directions Chapter 3

06/05/2008

This chapter talks about the pros and cons of the storytelling metaphor of Mediation, in which a story is told by each side. Work is done by the mediators and disputants to weave a new tale that none would dispute.

This chapter talks about the potential issues with mediation’s storytelling metaphor. Cobb argues that the practice of storytelling and the content of each disputant’s story can be managed through mediation to be a powerful record of a more complete record of the truth between divergent disputant stories. The issue is that if the mediator is to stay outside of the realm of content building, how can they both shape the stories being told, while not being a storyteller themselves? I personally feel that this is the necessary balance that a mediator must be aware of and respect.

This chapter makes note of the idea that the truthful reality, the story as it appears in the mind of each disputant, and the way that it is mentally or verbally practiced and then told in mediation may all be completely different stories, and so it is the task of the mediator to be aware of all of these contingent potentialities, and to work to passively engage disputants in the task of aligning reality, their own story, the story of the other, and the stories being told in the mediation session, so that they all achieve commonality in the majority.

Of the utmost importance are coherence, or the common understanding and agreement of each story, closure, or the filling of gaps in stories, interdependence, or the ways in which disputants might feel the need to have mutually divergent stories in order to fulfill their role of disputant, and that mediation must be seen as a way of clarifying and commonizing stories on opposing sides of conflict.

It provides a way for each disputant to have a voice, participate, and reconstruct the individual’s tale into a relational, collaborative story. Through conflict stories, the individual view that precedes any sort of collaborative mediation work, we can find the differences between realities, and by knowing these differences in reality, we can begin to construct more whole, encompassing views of the conflict, in order to find commonalities, establish coherence, and reframe conflict stories into an acceptable narrative for all involved (pp. 52-54).

The reluctance for disputants to part with their ‘closed, written’ conflict stories and opt for an opened up, bidirectional, relational narrative makes sense. In opening ourselves up to question, alter, or reveal our inner reality for scrutiny can be emotionally dangerous, relationally imbalancing, and potentially conflict increasing, but it is also possibly essential as a process for digging down to the whole, acceptable reality of the conflict, one that shows and describes all sides of a disagreement (pp. 54-56).

Mediation’s place in narrative building is not as editor, but more I think as fact checker. The facts are checked by the disputants themselves as part of the inquiry process of mediation (pp. 58-61). If disputants can open up to see more than their own world view, and can further be engaged to the degree that they can realize and accept not only all of their own experience and narrative, but the experience and narrative of the other side(s), then mediation can be seated and see what agreements will come (pp. 61-62).

Cobb, S. (1994). A Narrative Perspective on Mediation. In J. P. Folger & T. S. Jones (Eds.), New Directions in Mediation: Communication Research and Perspectives (pp. 48-64). Sage Publications, Inc.

Personal experiential application:

I wonder if it would work to go beyond the idea of storytelling in conflict narratives to an idea of poetry writing in conflict narratives. I’m not talking about injecting rhyme or rhythm into conflict narratives, but rather an emphasis on the poetic premise of the emphasis on sense based, concrete, nonabstract imagery in order to provide a recording of an event in an unbiased way, so that the reader can in effect experience the event for themselves. For instance, if I were to say:

/I loved her hair/

it would not likely be very telling, or convey what love is, because love is something I might feel differently than others do. I might define my own sense of love in an unbiased way instead:

/her hair was dark, down to her elbows, very straight, and smelled of lavender./

You might despise long dark hair, and not care for lavender. Do you love her hair? It’s up to you.

I also wonder about the potential for an electronic coop caucusing feature where the disputants could still be in content visually and aurally, but in a more comfortable physical space, maybe the room next door, by way of videoconferencing, closed circuit TV, or even just a phone. This way the face to face feature of mediation would be preserved, but in the case of a physical dispute or one in which violence took place, there would be no danger of any violence taking place during the mediation, despite all parties being ‘present’.

What might the introduction of a discussion board or a wiki do, where the narratives get told in written form, saved and recorded each time for posterity and progress assessment, but then is given to the other disputant so that they could edit the story to make it ‘more realistic’ according to their own reality?


Journal Entry: New Directions Chapter 9

06/05/2008

Chapter 9 in New Directions talks about the idea of mediation in the ‘workplace’, where the manager acts as the 3rd party, and the issues that this change brings.

In the chapter, a model is dissected in which 5 elements are considered for the analysis and application of managerial 3rd party mediation. The dispute scenario (nature, relationships, 3rd party experience & preferences), effectiveness criteria (intent assessment tools like efficiency, effectiveness, participant satisfaction, and fairness), third party role ( the approaches of the manager as mediator: autocrat, arbitrator, mediator, motivator, restructurer), outcomes (the result of the mediation: resolution/impasse, nature of agreement, disputant perceptions), and the organizational context (the state of the organization and the way it affects the conflict: history, culture).

Karambayya, R., & Brett, J. M. (1994). Managerial Third Parties. In J. P. Folger & T. S. Jones (Eds.), New Directions in Mediation: Communication Research and Perspectives (pp. 175-192). Sage Publications, Inc.

Personal Experiential Application:

Dr. Millen asks “Therefore, let’s begin the discussion tomorrow night by considering new metaphors, terms, or general frames that are designed to embrace and foster this transformative view of conflict and its resolution.”

I’ll participate as usual tonight, but I was very intrigued by this metaphor replacement, and had some thoughts I figured I’d share as my chapter journal entry. I feel like training implies that we have to apply mediation as though it were a single key that fits a single lock, and without that training that mediation has no chance to succeed.

I’m finding now, especially after reading chapter 9 on managerial third parties, that many of the aspects of transformative mediation can still exist and be useful and successful even though many of the rules (confidentiality, impartiality, neutral third party, professional emotional distance, etc.) may or may not be present.

I think one really useful metaphor for transformative mediation is ocean surf swimming, in which the mediator acts as a sort of lifeguard. Disputants get in to the turbulent water, go as deep as they feel comfortable with, go in any direction they like, progress at their own pace. There might be sharp shells in the sand underfoot, the waves might be a little bit too active, and there are jellyfish, but anything’s better than sitting out on the blazing sand. It hurts! The lifeguard might have swimming advice, might blow a whistle if things start to become dangerous, calling swimmers to come back in to a safer place. Not everyone knows how to swim in the same way – some people learn naturally, some take classes, and some go on to be Olympic surf swimmers. Some people are deathly afraid of water, and some people don’t mind pools, but are afraid of surf. How would training work with them?

Meanwhile, the activity of swimming can be a competition, but in this case, it’s just exercise, a way to feel better, it’s self-directed, and it only goes until the swimmer is satisfied. Unless the lifeguard suggests otherwise.


Journal Entry: New Directions Chapter 7

05/31/2008

This chapter was about the challenges of cultural diversity and ways in which in can influence the models chosen for mediation. Of particular importance in this chapter was the explanation of Hofstede’s Model of Cultural Differences, a set of continua that define one’s likely response to a given conflict and its handling (Folger & Jones, 1994, pp. 146-149). The continua include high vs. low Power Distance (one’s relative level of influential power), high vs. low uncertainty avoidance (ability to be comfortable in unstructured dialog), Individualism vs. collectivism (one’s willingness to break with norms in order to fulfill self’s needs), Masculinity vs. Femininity (one’s tendency to be more aggressive or more nurturing) (Folger & Jones, 1994, pp. 146-149).

Following this was an explanation of four models of mediation, and their best uses according to Hofstede’s model. There is Mediator controlled, in which mediators can call upon arbitration if a deadlock occurs (Folger & Jones, p. 149, 1994). Interventionist in which the mediator acts in the best interests of absent parties, such as children in divorce mediation (Folger & Jones, 1994, p. 151 ). Disputant Control, in which mediators act as simple maintainers and keepers of the process of disputants developing and owning their own solutions (Folger & Jones, 1994, p. 153). Then there is Relational Development, in which mediators work to establish commonality between parties before doing any sort of work on the issues themselves, in preparation for a more reasonable interaction in later mediation sessions (Folger & Jones, 1994, pp. 153-154).

I think one of the most interesting things about this chapter was the way in which it explained how cultural realities affect the way conflict might be handled in mediation, and specifically which mediation models might be most successful if you can effectively establish a sense of disputant cultures.

Donohue, W. A., & Bresnahan, M. I. (1994). Communication Issues in Mediating Cultural Conflict. In J. P. Folger & T. S. Jones (Eds.), New Directions in Mediation: Communication Research and Perspectives (pp. 135-158). Sage Publications, Inc.

Personal Experiential Application:

One interesting aspect of this chapter was specific information about how certain cultures are likely to deal with conflict. It gave me some clear insight into some specific conflict mediation situations I had encountered in the past that were culturally sensitive, but I wasn’t aware of the issues, and so I failed at mediating the situation.

I had a student worker, we’ll call her Susan, who was part of an international exchange program at the University, and who was a great student worker, always doing the tasks asked of her, always very quietly. As it turns out this quiet handling of tasks is a cultural sign of respect in this case, according to the Folger and Jones text, as she was Chinese.

It was this quietude that I encountered when I sat her down and asked very directly why a certain important delivery task hadn’t been done. She was caught in a lie, and there was clear evidence that the task, which had taken me and my staff a lot of time to set up, and then apparently was simply thrown out rather than delivered. We were surprised when we offered the ability to continue in the job if she could simply explain why the task hadn’t been done. She sat quietly, blinked at me, and said nothing. I asked several times if she could just tell me where the packages were so that we might be able to salvage them, and again got no response.

It turns out that my direct supervisory role and my actions in trying to resolve the problem, e.g., going directly to her and asking (accusing really) what had happened was in direct opposition to her social realities, which procluded speaking back to further conflict, bring issues out in the open in a direct way, and talking directly with the supervisor about an issue without an intermediary.

From Hofstede’s model, she was high power distance, high uncertainty avoidance, high collectivism, high femininity – given this, I might have taken a much more soft approach than the one that I did, but I wasn’t paying attention.


Journal Entry: New Directions Chapter 4

05/23/2008

This chapter talks about the realities that mediators and disputants bring with them into mediation, and how those realities, if not noted, can create misunderstandings in the way that the mediation progress, or lack thereof, is interpreted.

The bulk of the chapter is devoted to explaining the Interpretive Model, in which Littlejohn, Shailor, and Pearce found in their research that one’s sense of reality as it relates to conflict can be classified in many ways, but can be generally classified starting with three main groups of differences:

Moral reality, in which one’s general sense of right and wrong are defined. This can be further classified into groups such as authoritarian, republican, utilitarian and expressivist. These are more or less individualist vs. relational views, and rely more or less on liberty and freedom vs. predetermined rules and ‘scripture’.

Conflict Reality, or the ways in which one reacts and works with (or avoids) conflict. One may be more likely to see conflict as either opportunity or war, and will react to that feeling appropriately. People may also feel more or less comfortable with dealing with conflict themselves vs. having the conflict resolved for them. We can see how mediation favors and benefits those who see conflict as opportunity and resist adjudicated solutions, preferring a more relational approach.

Justice Reality, in which one’s understanding of the ways in which balance is achieved between conflicted parties. One may see justice as being served more by punishment, while another may see justice being served more by distribution of benefits, while someone else may see justice best served when ‘the whole’ is most rewarded.

The benefits of these analysis models are that we can either predict or review problems in mediation processes where unexpected results are encountered. If two disputants seem poised to find resolution, but suddenly drop backwards in progress over key statements, those statements could be investigated as different representations of reality, which could then possibly be brought more into alignment by way of reframing, restating, or other exercises in bringing about commonality between parties’ realities.

Littlejohn, S. W., Shailor, J., & Pearce, W. B. (1994). The Deep Structure of Reality in Mediation. In J. P. Folger & T. S. Jones (Eds.), New Directions in Mediation: Communication Research and Perspectives (pp. 67-83). Sage Publications, Inc.

Personal experiential influence:

I chose to focus on the Interpretive Model for my discussion presentation because it seemed interesting to me that we could specify some key ways in which we differ that might affect our handling of conflict. I think I have felt that conflict is generally inevitable and that if we care about something that we are in conflict about we have to work through the conflict in order to achieve our goals. When something is less important, we simply keep our mouths closed in order to avoid the conflict. That in fact, is my conflict reality pretty well defined. I have a personal conflict engagement continuum where I assess the level of importance of the goal, and assign to it my own level of willingness to participate in conflict about it. I had no idea anyone ever considered conflict any differently. I think myself I tend towards a conflict management perspective, in general, and would like to think that I prefer the consensus sub model, in which conflict exists as “a difference of opinion on alternate solutions, which is settled by discussion and creative problem solving” (Littlejohn, Shailor, and Pearce, 1994, p. 71). The issue that I encountered here explains quite a bit – when I ran into a conflict with someone and the outcome was very important to me, I ran towards it, and though i perceived the issue to be of great importance to the other party, they sometimes decided to simply let things be rather than to engage in the conflict in order to come to a better solution that just the status quo. The Interpretive Model explains that in our Conflict Reality, as well as possibly with other realities, we were mismatched as disputants. Perhaps they preferred a libertarian or conflict avoidance Conflict reality, and we would have to work on the conditions of the stage of the conflict before we would be able to engage it, if at all.