Forward and Upward: A Toddler's View of Conflict Resolution Lesson #9: Effective communication is the key to achieving your goals






Readers will recall that last year's newsletter was a series of "Life Lessons", in tribute to my late mother. This year, I am happy to report that I am learning and re-learning new life lessons through the eyes of the next generation, my granddaughter.  Like "My Mother's Legacy", these are lessons that serve me well as I apply them to mediation.  

As our toddler started pre-school last month, we have all marveled at the explosion of language she has gained.  She is not always easy to understand, but she repeats herself, tries different approaches and basically can get her point across to her parents, her grandparents, her teachers and her new Au Pair, who is not  a native English speaker.  What she has also begun to understand is that asking nicely, without whining or shouting, more often gets her the desired result than demanding it out right.

When being given instructions, or choices by an adult, she may need to ask for clarification before responding, too.  It's a delightful and natural exchange, but one that will serve her well throughout her lifetime.  Sometimes she has a difficult time choosing between two options, but she knows that occasionally, her grandparents will buy her both the plush fish and the stuffed octopus at the aquarium, but that she may eat french fries only for lunch and not for all meals in a given day, and certainly not with a milkshake!

In mediation, too, where the parties make unrealistic demands loudly and with a mean demeanor, they are less likely to get a response steeped in kindness or understanding.  Where they display an appearance of greediness without a willingness to compromise or give in on some things for the sake of more important others, they are often left disappointed and angry.  Instead of engaging in productive give and take, they may cause the whole process to devolve into a juvenile shouting match in which no one wins and everyone retreats to their own corners.  Even our toddler knows that is not the best approach to satisfy her needs.

Approaching conflict with a civil and reasonable tone, treating your adversary with a polite respect (even if you have being doing battle over the life of the litigation) will serve you well in setting the building blocks for a productive exchange of information and ultimately usually lead you to a reasonable resolution of your client's claims.

This month I, too, return to school as I'll be attending the International Academy of Mediator's Conference in Cleveland, the California Employment Lawyer's Association's Conference in San Diego and presenting at the Southern California Mediation Association's Annual Conference in Los Angeles on "More than a Messenger:  Advanced Communication Skills for the Modern Mediator" with my colleague, Stacie Feldman Hausner on November 3, 2018.  You can register for the SCMA Conference Here:  SCMA Conference. 

P.S.:  Speaking of communication, The Daily Journal published an article which I authored this week on the new Senate Bill 954 which requires all attorneys participating in mediation to disclose that it is confidential and get a written acknowledgement from your clients in advance of the mediation.  The article is titled:  "Mediation law does not protect clients; it's too little too late".  Daily Journal 10.01.18.  If you don't already know about the new law, which takes effect on January 1 2019, please send me an email and I will update you. 

Warm Regards, 

Jan Frankel Schau

ADR Services, Inc.


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