Yesterday I met a colleague in the hallway outside the courtroom. I was filling out paperwork and ruminating on a case that I’d just finished “processing.” There was no agreement. After a long mediation the plaintiff offered a settlement that the defendant turned down. My colleague also filed paperwork with no agreement. We talked about our recent spate of “no-settlement” cases. We know, through training, that no agreement is fine, sometimes optimal. As my colleague pointed out, sometimes we mediate agreements that we wish instead had gone before the magistrate, simply because we feel one or both of the parties agreed to something that they might later regret. Under my breath I said, “I WISH I could be the judge and settle these disputes myself!” My colleague looked amused. Perhaps I should go to law school, she wondered? No. I just want to fix things…fairly. This, of course, is my naughty mediator thought…a feeling I fight back and keep safely hidden away in the fantasy part of my brain. Wanting to fix things is a bad mindset for mediators. Read more.
An inner city teacher in St. Louis stayed after school to help a student, even though her superiors warned her to leave the building for her own safety, once classes were dismissed. A stranger entered the room and demanded she take off her clothes. This incident happened, though it had a better outcome than you might expect. So did the following: A metropolitan police officer arrested a man at a housing project, only to exit the building to find an angry mob of sixty people surrounding his car, demanding that he let the man go. Both the teacher and policeman had recently been trained in Nonviolent Communication (NVC), and both escaped with their lives. Their secret weapon? They engaged the people who were ready to act on their violent urges in a conversational process that diffused the danger. The teacher escaped her rapist and the policeman calmed the crowd. Both incidents are recounted by Marshall Rosenberg in his book, Nonviolent Communication, A Language for Life....read more