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Sharing Personal Stories

I like to share personal stories in mediation.

A lawyer the other day remarked that he liked this personal touch very much and he thought that it really helped.

Sometimes, just to break the ice, I talk about my children, of whom I am very proud.

Sometimes I speak of family history in order to emphasize some similarity between the story in mind and the conflict at hand.

(In case you didn’t know, every family has conflict at one time or another.)

Thus, when I need to deliver a message to a disputant, often it can be couched more diplomatically in the stories I tell.

Sometimes, the stories create reciprocity. Let me tell you what I mean.

In mediation, people I have never met before may be called upon to tell me very personal things they would not ordinarily tell a stranger.

If I tell them something personal, often it opens the door to them telling me something personal.

This, more intimate, communication helps us to get to the heart of the matter, so to speak.

Sometimes, just to help create a connection, I speak of my wife’s genealogy hobby in which she is totally consumed and from which she is finding terrific tidbits from the past.

So, when I speak for instance of where one part of the family, or another, originated, sometimes I generate a whole conversation that helps connect us geographically and/or culturally.

I have yet to be able to speak about my ancestor, Arthur Welsh, on my maternal grandfather’s line, who was the first American Jewish Aviator. See, http://www.jhsgw.org/exhibitions/online/arthurwelsh/ .

It’s a fascinating story, and I’ll find a way yet to make it useful.

(Or maybe I just did.)

***

David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website is at http://karpmediation.com .

Be Strong Be Strong and May We Be Strengthened.

From two different recent sources I was inspired today to write this piece.

One source was a most difficult negotiation in a recent mediation which finally settled; the other was a Facebook post from my cousin the rabbi.

The last first:

My cousin is a person I admire greatly. Like me he started out as a practicing attorney and was inspired to leave law practice, for himself and for the greater good. He is a peacemaker too, and a compassionate helper of other people, however he chose a different path than I did. He left law practice for the rabbinate. He is the spiritual leader of a congregation, which is the perfect role for him. He is learned, wise, sensitive, smart, reflective, empathetic, respectful of other people’s involvement in their faiths and traditions, and very conscious of the blessings of life even in difficult circumstances.

(In other words, I like him a lot and think he’s terrific.)

My cousin recently made a transition from one congregation to another, moving from one state to another and from one community of friends, colleagues, congregants and acquaintances to another.

He wrote a post on Facebook about his recent installation as the new rabbi of his synagogue and in it I recognized his reference to an important tradition in Jewish religious life.

This is the tradition:

At the end of each of the five books of the Torah, in the transition before starting the next book, we say, “Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek” translated variously as “Be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened [or, let us summon our strength, or, may we strengthen one another]!”

See, http://www.chabad.org/holidays/JewishNewYear/template_cdo/aid/4526/jewish/Holiday-Customs.htm ; http://www.thejewishcenter.org/The-Jewish-Center-Blog/May-2013/Chazak,-Chazak-v-Nitchazek.aspx ; http://chai.urj.org/dictionary/level3/ .

So too, in my cousin’s transition from one chapter in his life to another, I thought it appropriate to write in response to his post, “Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,” and did so.

That’s when I also thought of a recent, very difficult negotiation in a recent mediation which ultimately settled, and that’s when I decided to write this piece.

In that mediation, as the day wore on, and as the parties wore out – mediation is very difficult and exhausting – the participants on both sides (as they each gave up more and more ground to try to get to peace) increasingly resisted further compromise and sometimes recoiled and retreated because of second thoughts about whether they were doing the right thing.

I found my self saying to them, “Whoa, don’t talk yourself out of settling; you need to keep going to achieve your goal here.”

I perceive now that I was really saying, “Be strong, be strong, and [both sides] will strengthen one another” to reach a durable settlement that everyone can live with.

For I believe that the necessary compromises of mediation, especially the most difficult concessions at the end, do show personal strength and not weakness in making the transition from the vigorous investment in the dispute to the acceptance of enduring peace.

Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek.

***

David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. For further information, go to http://karpmediation.com .

Giving

According to Sir Winston Churchill, “we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”

So I give my time.

I am a volunteer mentor for a first year law student at Loyola Law School and for a college senior at UCLA.

I volunteer some of my time for the Appellate Mediation Program of the California Second District Court of Appeal.

When the new Valley Bar Mediation Center starts up, which I believe is imminent, I hope to help the San Fernando Valley Bar Association with this new educational nonprofit as well.

I even give extra time in mediation so that people will understand that I too am investing in their efforts to get to peace.

I also give money.

I am not saying this to boast; it’s not a lot of money, although I wish I could do more.

Nevertheless, at this time of year (November/December), rather than spending foolishly on silly presents or disposable greeting cards, I try to find a way through donations to make a small difference in the world.

This year, I have donated to “JFS { SOVA.” According to its website, “SOVA is a program of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, a non-sectarian agency, dedicated to alleviating hunger and poverty in the community through food distribution and offering a wide range of supportive services.” See, http://www.jfsla.org/page.aspx?pid=313 . “SOVA is taken from the Hebrew word ‘savah’ which means to eat or drink and be satisfied, or satiated.” Id.

I like to say that my donation at this time of year is in honor of family, friends, colleagues and other business contacts, in lieu of greeting cards.

But it’s also for me. It makes me feel good to give and to help other people whenever I can do so, especially but not only when it comes to alleviating hunger and suffering.

Happy Holidays and please give too, in whatever way is comfortable for you.

***

David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website is at http://karpmediation.com .

A Moral Dilemma, A Creative Outcome – A Fictional Account

[This is fiction, a Bubbe Meise for those who know the phrase.]

The commercial grower’s representative sits in one conference room for the mediation along with his litigation counsel.

The defendants, a poor old pious man and his frail dying wife, sit in another room with their Pro Bono attorney.

The complaint alleges a wilful and malicious trespass onto the plaintiff’s agricultural fields, the taking of fruit from the trees, consequential damages for a broken irrigation pipe, punitive damages, and injunctive relief.

The plaintiff’s representative explains to the mediator in private:

“We have a strict corporate policy of prosecuting people who steal our crops, no matter what. We do so to send a message: we are not a charity, we are commercial growers in business for profit. If we let these defendants get away with what they’ve done, we are opening the doors to let everyone get away with similar conduct.”

One of the defendants in the other room explains to the mediator in private:

“We are old. We are not well. We can’t work anymore. We have no real money, just social security. We were driving and our old car, which is our only real asset anymore and which we still need and cannot replace, broke down again. We hadn’t eaten and my wife was very hungry. While we were walking to get help, we saw this orchard. It looked like it had already been harvested. Some of the fruit was still on the branches and some laying on the ground. I thought to pick up some fruit for my hungry wife. On my way to do so, I am sorry, but I tripped on a water pipe and hurt myself. Maybe I broke the pipe. I don’t know. If I did I apologize. I was only trying to get my wife some food. I didn’t think she would last much longer.”

The conversation continues and the wife asks, “what do they want?”

“They want to enforce their policies, they want to send a message, they want you not to do what you did, they want you to stop and they want some money.”

The husband suggests: “That’s mishuga. You know, the Good Book says [Leviticus 23:22], ‘when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger.’” [See, http://mazon.org/2008/11/11/torah-text-sources/ .]

The husband suggests: “So, maybe they’re not right to make this claim and we shouldn’t owe anything … but maybe I can help patch up the water pipe, I was a plumber when I was younger.”

The mediator takes the suggestion into the other room. It is rejected.

There is some more back and forth between the rooms but the negotiation is going nowhere.

Finally, an idea emerges:

“Can you agree not to go on the land anymore? And then in the fairly near future, when you’re no longer willing/able to drive and/or the car is no longer fixable, can you agree to sell the car for whatever you can get for it and give the money to the grower? If you can do this, then maybe the grower can agree to use a portion of the proceeds as reimbursement for the water pipe repair and then make a donation of the balance to an agency that will use the money to feed the poor. Maybe then everyone can benefit just a little. Will this work for you?”

The couple agrees if the grower also agrees.  The commercial grower’s representative says he will recommend it to his superiors.

The mediation ends.

And so does this story.

***

David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California who mediates “at the heart of the dispute” and who looks for creative outcomes if they are possible. See http://karpmediation.com .

Announcement — Martindale-Hubbell® AV Preeminent™ Rating

As announced on the News-Diary Page of his website, at http://karpmediation.com/News-Diary.html , “Mediator David I. Karp was notified today that, as in prior years, he has earned for 2015 the Martindale-Hubbell® AV Preeminent™ Rating, the highest possible rating for legal ability and ethical standards.”

***

David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of Real Estate and Business Disputes in Southern California.  For more information, please go to http://karpmediation.com .

Facing Personal Challenges, Even Hearing Aids

I see people in distress all the time in mediation.

I see the financial turmoil of course, but also I see the emotional turmoil that arises due to the adversities which have caused, or resulted from, disputants’ conflicts with one another.

Such emotional turmoil includes stress, sometimes embarrassment, anger, remorse, sorrow, irritability, insecurity, fragility, vulnerability, feelings of loss of self worth or loss of control, despair, even depression.

I have always felt that my approach to others’ challenges is empathic, and people have told me that it is.

In many cases, I have commiserated, I have reflected, I have heard and understood. I have “felt their pain” (in a way) and they have seen it and appreciated it … or so I have been informed.

I have tried “to walk in their shoes” and to be reaffirming of each such person’s sense of self and of worth.

I think this has helped people to face and to deal with their difficulties, to approach the resolution of their disputes, to let go of the past, and ultimately to move on.

This week, on a very personal level, I too felt a welling up of such emotions as I have listed above, primarily as a result of coming to terms with a long time partial hearing loss and my recent acceptance that I needed hearing aids, which I have now purchased and wear.

(Parenthetically, even though I am still getting used to them, let me tell you: they are amazing, terrific, very sophisticated, and incredibly helpful, although very expensive….  And they have taken a personal emotional toll on me during this week.)

Thus, I tell you about my new hearing aids in part to face my own challenges, to attempt to get over the self consciousness, and mostly to reaffirm my own feelings of self worth, self confidence, competence, professional ability and the agility to hear, listen, understand and help people.

Also, I write this to say that, having internalized my own feelings and having sorted them out, I feel as if I have been allowed a new perspective which will enable me to relate better, more deeply, even more genuinely and sincerely, and on a much more personal level, with the feelings of those in distress who attend mediation.

For I believe that I do, and I should, bring my personal experiences to bear on the disputes I mediate and that this makes me better at what I do.

Thus I think this: when we can truly and sincerely show that we can relate to the difficulties that parties in conflict face, then we can better help them feel that they are not powerless, that they can face their challenges, that they can overcome their inertia, and that they can solve some or all of their problems … or at least settle some or all of their disputes with others.

***

David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes. For further information, please go to http://karpmediation.com .

Bullying – When the Parties Leave the Mediation and Enter the Schoolyard

The inspiration to write about bullying in mediation came from at least two sources recently.

First, this week I saw an ad on TV about the website http://www.stopbullying.gov/ which announces that October is “Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.”

The foregoing website defines bullying this way:

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance…. Kids who bully use their power-such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity-to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.

See, http://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/definition/index.html .

Second, last week Mark B. Baer, a perceptive colleague and a friend, wrote a response to a recent post of mine (http://karpmediation.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/it-is-very-hard-for-people-to-give-ground/ ), suggesting that the following was perhaps one cause of why some disputes do not settle in mediation:

The percentage of people with diagnosable personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder and narcissism and people with high conflict personalities have increased with each generation.

Both the TV ad and Mark Baer’s comment led me back to some of the written materials that I kept from an excellent program I attended in June 2014 on “Negotiations with Difficult People,” presented by another colleague, Tim Corcoran, and by Retired Judge Chris Warner.

(Per them by the way, “Difficult People” includes, among others, Antisocial, Histrionic, Narcissistic and Borderline individuals, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, aka “the DSM.” These are the same types of people to which Mark Baer referred in his reply, above.)

Corcoran and Warner also remark in their materials that bullies are among the types of High Conflict Personality People that we may come across in mediation.

I also have some fine written materials from Bill Eddy who is the President of the High Conflict Institute, an attorney, a therapist, a mediator and a lecturer.

All of these materials contain really excellent suggestions on how, as a mediator, to recognize and deal with high conflict people, how to listen and talk to them, how to give them empathy, attention and respect without agreeing or disagreeing with them, how even to attempt to divert their attention from the emotion of it all to the problem solving that mediation needs in order to result in resolution.

That doesn’t mean that the materials guarantee that a case with a bully will settle however.

In fact Retired Judge Warner suggested, during the program that I attended, that, although most cases do settle prior to trial, those that go to trial are often propelled there by the “Difficult People” participating in them on one side or the other, or both.

In any event, one idea in Bill Eddy’s materials caught my eye as I was writing this:

To manage our own reactions as mediators to high conflict personalities (e.g., bullies in this piece), Eddy suggests among other things that we should view them as five-year-olds with insecurity issues.

That’s where the mental picture came to me of the parties leaving the mediation and entering the schoolyard.

On the stopbullying.gov website, one of the suggestions of what to do in response to bullying is to “walk away and stay away.” See, http://www.stopbullying.gov/kids/what-you-can-do/index.html

Often that’s the reaction I have seen in mediation: when one side has perceived that it is being bullied by the other side, the response has been to get up and leave, or not give in (i.e., not agree to the bully’s demands).

Perhaps that is the right response (perhaps not), but often it is the impatient one.

As Bill Eddy suggests, dealing with High Conflict Personalities takes time [lots of time, I think], attention, patience, empathy and respect, to get them to focus on and use their problem solving skills.

The rub is that often the other side cannot be kept patiently waiting for all of that to happen and/or the financial constraints on the mediation won’t allow for it.

In any event, working with a bully is difficult at best and impossible at worst.

Perhaps that is why Mark Baer and Judge Warner acknowledge that a case with a difficult person (such as a bully or other High Conflict Personality) may not settle.

I agree, of course, but remain cautiously hopeful notwithstanding.

***

David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. For more information, go to http://karpmediation.com .

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