Yesterday was an interesting day for me. I spent the day in a training for a Personnel Commission for which I have served as a Hearing Officer for over a decade. At its conclusion, a very young female participant in the training took me aside and complemented me for being a “bad ass” woman whom she hoped to emulate in her burgeoning career. While my initial reaction was of great flattery, I naturally also went to my last failed mediation.
There, it became apparent early in the process that I knew much more about the law and the jurisdiction than either Plaintiff or his attorney. Because it was only scheduled for 1/2 day, I quickly launched into my “evaluative” mode to help the Plaintiff’s side get down to a reasonable range in which I had my typical (“bad ass”) confidence the case could settle. It did not. Five hours later, Defense Counsel departed while I was still working with Plaintiff on a counter-offer and the case hit an early impasse.
My conclusion? We professionals have to use vigilance not to use our self confidence and expertise at the expense of those heartfelt expressions of anger, betrayal, hurt and confusion nor can we dismiss or overlook the emotions of a wounded sense of pride and ego for the sake of “getting sh-t done”. Just as we observe within the greater discourse in politics and values, we as mediators, and I in particular need to remind myself that civility demands humility and an openness to a different perspective, even (or perhaps especially) when we think we know the end of the story.