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Mediation Tip: Mediators Devils and Angels

I read a good article from Roger C. Benson - Link is below. Mr. Benson raises a topic that comes up frequently in mediation- that of trying to resolve conflict for someone who is stuck in the conflict. He states, "The boulder in the path to resolving conflict is fear – fear that the other side of the conflict is up to no good and any concessions we make will be interpreted as a sign of weakness and invite further aggression. The fear comes from our hardwired, primitive and undifferentiated response to stress that we unconsciously experience as a threat to our very existence. It is an all or nothing, life or death feeling that leaves no room to consider the true nature of the threat or whether our response makes sense, taking into account what is actually going on. " His comments really resonated since this is what we see so often occur in our mediations. Mr. Benson also cites in his article the teachings of the late Rabbi Zalman Schachter- Shalom, who noted that people bring to the negotiating table their "good side" and their "shadow side", and they focus on their own "good" side yet on the others' "evil side". I have observed this occurring in many of my mediations, including one this past week. As Mr. Benson cites, the underlying fact is that people don't escape the "labyrinth" (conflict) until they fully understand their own dreams and expectations. Thus, the article encourages a private yet open dialogue with each party to help them really see who they are, and understand their own feelings. That awakening is what can help each side to alter their steadfast position that has not been working to resolve the conflict. For anyone who has been in a conflict (and that would be ALL of us), and for anyone embarking on resolving an upcoming issue, consider the arc with which you perceive yourself and your own behavior (angel?), and that with which you perceive your opponent's, (devil?), and consider whether those perceptions may have clouded reality or set roadblocks in resolving the conflict. If so, perhaps a perception shift, or recognizing our own contribution to the conflict, and trying to understand how it looks from the other sides' perspective, may help you achieve a better outcome.

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