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Conflict, Disagreement, Kindness, Respect

February 20, 2017

I have chosen a profession in which disagreements abound. The conflicts I see in mediation are often fueled by high emotion. In the words of William Butler Yeats in The Second Coming, the participants are “full of passionate intensity.” This is to be expected in the professional world of dispute resolution.

Unexpectedly, lately I have seen such “passionate intensity” infect our social media, our television and radio, our conversations in the streets and elsewhere, all as people react to current political issues.

On Facebook today, I saw that one person was complaining that she was unfriended by another with whom there is political disagreement. They had been close friends, apparently, for years, but their civil discourse became so uncivil that one terminated her online relationship with the other.

Now people argue on Facebook all the time, with neither ever convincing the other. But the arguments often devolve into fierce and painful insult.

This is just not right.

Jan Frankel Schau, an inspiring colleague of mine, wrote recently about kindness in mediation.

See, http://myemail.constantcontact.com/My-Mother-s-Legacy—Approaching-Conflict-with-Kindness.html?soid=1102092773045&aid=VYe6s3cqybE

In this piece, Schau observes, that, at the end of the mediations she was describing:

the lawyers shook hands, thanked one another for their cooperation and expressed their appreciation of the other’s approach to a difficult negotiation. It was, in fact, reassuring that even as our Country seems to be in such a crisis, civic discourse took place in conference rooms instead of court rooms. Imagine that!

Well put.

In a PS to the piece, Schau paid homage to President Lincoln on this Presidents’ Day Weekend, by offering a famous quote of his about settling cases:

“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise wherever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.”

I would go further on this Presidents Day.

I would suggest that people take heed of George Washington’s 110 Rules of Civility.

See, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1248919

Although “[m]ost of the rules are concerned with details of etiquette, offering pointers on such issues as how to dress, walk, eat in public and address one’s superiors.” they all flow from the first:  “Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.” Id.

I would add that such respect is due to others, wherever and whenever, whether in mediation or on Facebook.

Respectfully wishing you a good, thoughtful and reflective Presidents Day today.

***

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

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