Mediating in the Eye of the Storm
I received a very nice compliment from a colleague the other day.
My colleague, mediator Terri Lubaroff, and I were co-panelists in a program for lawyers about finding, choosing and using mediators in the current Los Angeles marketplace for dispute resolution professionals.
Unlike some of the other panelists, many of whom I have known for years, Terri and I hadn’t met before. (As an aside, I was very impressed by her and her panel presentation which followed mine.)
When finally we had a chance to chat (after the program ended), Terri remarked spontaneously to me about “how calm you are” or words to that effect.
That stopped me for a second.
Then I responded that that is a trait I bring to the mediation table (although my wife doesn’t always agree that I am so calm).
Truly, many participants in mediation have remarked on my calmness.
They say I am “easy to talk to” or I “make them feel comfortable” or I “am so patient” or other similar sentiments.
I appreciate all these words, and am flattered by them.
But the fact is that the calmness is not only who I am in mediation, it is one of my tools.
In many mediations, I describe the mediation as a “time out” from the litigation:
It is a place where, instead of bashing one another, the participants can learn more about the needs and interests of the others, and their own, and a place where, through introspection and contemplation, people can make sense of their predicament so that they can work to end their dispute if they choose.
All of this requires a degree of calmness.
When Terri suggested that I am so calm, I thought of another comparison, that is, mediating in the eye of the storm.
I am by no means a meteorologist, but I do remember seeing those amazing photographs of hurricanes, wherein the eye of the storm can be observed, and where, apparently, there is relative calm.
In mediation, the conflict swirls all about the participants.
As we sometimes see in documentaries on TV, it can be a rough ride going into the calm at the center, and if the participants in mediation cannot themselves find calm and reason, it can be a rough ride leaving the mediation and reentering the storm.
So, hopefully, the calmness I portray helps the disputants themselves to become calm; and I think it does, inasmuch as people tend to mirror the behavior of others.
If so, they might “see” their way out of the storm through its “eye.”
David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His business website is http://karpmediation.com . Mr. Karp is also on the mediation panel of, and accepts assignments from, the California Association of REALTORS® Real Estate Mediation Center for Consumers for matters appropriate to the panel. Mr. Karp apologizes for any ads affixed to this post by wordpress.com; they are not his.