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The Weight of Responsible Mediation

July 1, 2011

You might think I will write today about the weighty responsibility of careful, skillful guidance offered to parties in conflict who come to mediation not only to settle their disputes but to improve their lives.

You might even think, since I am now reading Bush and Folger’s masterwork, The Promise of Mediation: The Transformative Approach to Conflict (rev. ed., Jossey-Bass, 2005), that I will focus on the significant pressure I impose on myself “to do no harm” as I venture into the private emotional turmoil of a disputant, to help him or her out of the anger and self-absorption of the conflict, and to bring empowerment and recognition to the person so he or she can find his or her own resolution and peace. (These are some of the buzz words from The Promise of Mediation.)

No, I write about the weight of my briefcase.

The handle broke the other day and I was left powerless and without my “toolbox” that I bring each day to mediation.  The briefcase is now being repaired so I, too, will be empowered once again, to mediate well, once the handle of my favorite briefcase is fixed.

I bring a heavy briefcase to every mediation.  Besides the day’s case file, a legal pad and my calendar (clearly the most important items), the briefcase also contains many other things, mostly papers, that I might just need that day.  Of course, much of the paperwork remains in the briefcase day to day, but, when relevant, I bring out this paper or that one, to help make this point or that.

I also carry two decks of playing cards in the briefcase.  When I offer them to people in one room for when I am working in the other room, most people just laugh and say, instead, they will do without.  (Of course there was that one day where two conflicting sides of the same family were in their separate rooms, and while their attorneys and I helped them to work out their lawsuit to partition an inherited home, both sides played cards in both rooms.)

In the briefcase I always pack a small bottle of water (you can never drink too much water) and even a snack bar, which most often goes to someone else who is hungry.

Then there’s the pharmacy: the headache pills, the antacids, and so forth, and the facial tissues (for tearful participants), and the hand wipes, and the all important lens cleaner packets for my glasses.

And I pack menus for local restaurants that cater, to help people deal with working through the lunch hour.

Finally, I pack bus/subway/light rail schedules.  I am an advocate for public transportation, and when possible, I like to avoid sitting in my car in traffic and also paying through the nose to park downtown.

So, all of this stuff is heavy.

And the handle broke, just as I was getting off the “Dash” bus downtown going to a mediation.

That’s the weight of responsible mediation.

PS, I can’t wait until my briefcase is fixed.

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From → Bubbe Meises

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