I Mediate, Therefore I Am? (Web)

This is the 12th installment of The Master Mediator, a periodic CPR web column featuring commentary by Robert A. Creo, describing and discussing mediation room techniques and practice issues.

I Mediate, Therefore I Am?

Many lawyers turn mediators because they are searching for meaning in their life's work.

Some of them consciously or unconsciously embrace the concept of Theosophy, which involves seeking greater meaning in one's personal life, based upon philosophical or religious thought rooted into a mystical insight into the divine nature. Theosophy is based upon universal brotherhood and cooperation

Can we transcend the task before us of settling a case?

Should we transcend the task before us of settling a case?

Can, or should we, transform ourselves in the process of settling cases?

I have heard mediators talk of the “shadow-side” or the “ego” of the mediator–referring to the mediator's own self-interest or agenda. I think we need to acknowledge and be transparent about how our own interests are furthered during the mediation process.

We often seek a coming together of “Heart, Soul & Mind” in moments of perfect harmony. To succeed, we must face risk and uncertainty quickly and with self-confidence. In his 2001 book, “Mediating Dangerously: The Frontiers of Conflict Resolution” (Jossey-Bass), Kenneth Cloke encourages us to think courageously by taking chances.

This reminds me of the three questions of Rabbi Hillel. These are often translated as:

  1. If we are not for ourselves, who will be?
  2. If we are only for ourselves, what are we?
  3. If not now, when?

I think this is an apt paradigm for introspection and reflection as mediators.

Mediators have the ability to translate compassion into action; to identify and manipulate; and navigate risk and uncertainty.

Compassion translates into our passion for what we do. That opens doors of opportunity for closure. A prominent mediator, Bennett G. Picker, a partner in Philadelphia’s Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP, contends that the first word that should come to mind when a disputant thinks of mediation is “opportunity.”

L. Randolph Lowry III, president of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., and a longtime conflict resolution scholar, reminds us that we must never forget that we are invited into the gravitas of human conflict and tragedy. I have seen too much trauma and stress on both sides of a conflict. I am proud to have contributed to any economic security, closure and healing that has come as a direct result of mediation.

One peace story stands out among my cases. It involves a horrible matter–a father who backed over his 3-year-old son with his power riding lawnmower, cutting off the child's arm.

The mother blamed the father; the father looked at the mother for not properly watching the boy.
They both filed suit against the lawnmower maker for a defective product, on the theory that the blades should stop when the mower is in reverse.

A financial settlement was obtained that provided lifetime security for the boy and his family. The parents seemed to reconcile at the end of the mediation session.

The next day, I unexpectedly observed them at the airport on the way home while they were awaiting a separate flight. They were holding hands and smiling. I did not interrupt nor let them know I saw them.
On my plane ride home I was looking out the window when I started to cry. I guess it was a release of all the emotions of the mediation. The gentleman sitting next to me asked if I was OK. I responded, “I couldn't be better.”

So, I enjoin practitioners and readers to congratulate each other on “being better.” Shake hands. Pat backs. Stand-up and applaud each other. Share in collective joy and mutual affirmation.
I hope each of you “couldn't be better” each day you mediate.

BY ROBERT A. CREO

The author, a Pittsburgh attorney, is a mediator and arbitrator. He also represents parties in alternative dispute resolution and designs conflict resolution systems. He is a founding member of the International Academy of Mediators (see www.iamed.org), and served as its president between 1997 and 1999. He also is a member of Alternatives’ editorial board. His new book, a two-volume, loose-leaf ADR reference, titled “Alternative Dispute Resolution: Law, Procedure and Commentary for the Pennsylvania Practitioner,” is available via publisher George T. Bisel Co. at www.bisel.com. He can be reached at robertacreo@cs.com.