The Negotiator Magazine

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Here is a sampling of my remarks:

Thank You for Choosing to be “Peacemakers.”  You and I are in the same business: not of “peacekeeping,” but of Peacemaking.    Peacekeeping is defined by the University of Colorado’s Conflict Research Consortium as:   “Keeping people from attacking each other by putting some kind of barrier between them.”   This barrier may be comprised of soldiers or peacekeepers from neutral nations, or in the world of litigation or civilian life, it may be the province of police and judges.  Their job does not include settling the disputants’ differences or helping to negotiate peace:  simply keeping the two sides apart. Peacemaking, on the other hand, is the process of forging a settlement between the disputing parties through either direct negotiations or through a third-party mediator who assists with process and communication problems.  It is a verb, an active endeavor, a challenging enterprise, peacemaking. The final step is known as “Peacebuilding”  This is the  long-term efforts directed at normalizing relations and reconciling differences.  We may not be there yet, but I hope that we are paving the way for our children and grandchildren to take that next step. Twelve years ago, Robert Baruch Bush and Joseph Folger published a book called, “The Promise of Mediation:  Responding to Conflict through Empowerment and Recognition” The concept was grounded on principles no less powerful than the power of mediation to transform individuals in conflict through simple principles of respect and compassion. How does it Work?  Let me tell you a story:  it is the story of a little girl that was born severely hearing impaired.  Imagine that little girl beginning kindergarten, where her teacher, made aware of her hearing impairment, speaks directly at her eye level and breaks down every sentence into small “kindergarten-sized words”.  Imagine that little girl getting through high school and into state University, where she is assigned a “note taker” and a voice activated computer.  Now imagine the little girl graduating and getting her first job at the very same school district where she had been treated so kindly as a child. Imagine that young woman, now aged 24, eager to attend the training for new teachers that summer.  Unfortunately, when the training begins, the teacher/trainer does her instruction with her back turned towards her audience, as she scribbles an outline of requirements on the blackboard.  Now imagine the new teacher’s dismay when, at her initial performance review, she’s told her work is not meeting the school’s requirements.  Without knowing precisely in what ways she must improve, imagine her outrage when six months later, her contract is not renewed for another school year. That young woman consulted an attorney, who filed a legal action on her behalf.  The conduct of the School district was defended by a huge, downtown law firm, who tested the pleadings and the claims in every way possible.  Now imagine the mediation of this dispute:  Imagine the power of this young woman being able to tell her story not to the Principal or her Supervisor, but to the head of the School Board.   And imagine the tears that fell when that School Board President articulated her remorse and lack of understanding until that moment of Mary’s struggle and Mary’s needs and Mary’s challenges.

 

This is the power of mediation.  This is simple respect and compassion.

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February 2007