20/20 Hindsight: Lessons on conflict resolution from the home for the aging Lesson #2: It takes a good, healthy heart to settle conflict






Readers will recall that last year's newsletter was a series of "Life Lessons" as observed through the eyes of the next generation, my granddaughter.  Like "My Mother's Legacy" (the theme of 2017's Newsletter), these were lessons that have served me well as I apply them to my mediation practice. This year, I'm happy to share with you some of the wisdom and lessons I learn from the elderly residents who reside with my father in the Home for the Aging.  Hopefully, you will savor their wise advice and learn from them just as I do each time I visit there.

Once you reach your eighties or nineties, there is about an 80% likelihood that you also have some form of cardiovascular disease. The key to a long, healthy life is to treat it, monitor it and control it.  Fresh air, minimizing stress, eating a good, healthy diet and exercise all contribute to a healthy heart long into older age.

In December, 2018, I published an article in the Daily Journal, The case for Adding Empathy to your Legal Practice .  It introduced what I found out was a surprisingly controversial idea:  that lawyers can approach mediation with empathy--both for their own clients and their opposing parties.  

There is a Biblical parable in the old testament about G-d hardening Pharoah's heart and then punishing him for refusing to let the people of Israel go free.  By the act of hardening his heart, Biblical scholars (including a Dr. David Frankel, of no relation), have concluded that Pharoahs' intractability and stubbornness ultimately lead G-d to taking away his free will altogether, turning his hardened heart to stone.  (I don't want to take this into politics, but you can see the potential of comparison to certain American leaders here, who have refused to negotiate in the way mediators would advocate for them.)

In this Valentine's season of love, consider how taking the time to listen and genuinely empathize with our clients may ultimately serve to change the way legal disputes are resolved:  from a warrior/hardened heart to a place of openness, accepting a modicum of vulnerability to the possibility that the ultimate fight will not be in the best interest of either client or counsel.  Rather than approaching your next mediation with a mindset of "beating the opponent", an attempt to understand what your client truly cares about may be well warranted.  And being open to hearing the perspective of the other may lead to a more sustainable resolution that may be much better than the alternative of continuing to litigate.

And you just may live longer as the result! 

P.S.  I will be participating in a Webinar for the ABA Dispute Resolution Section on February 13, 2019 with my colleagues, Mitchell Tarighatti and Angela-Reddock Wright on "When Neutrality, Confidentiality and Ethics Collide".  You can register here:  ABA Webinar Series as well as presenting with a colleague, Dr. Amora Fischer at the Pepperdine/Straus American Inn of Court for Dispute Resolution Inn of Court on February 21, 2019 on:  "The Elephant in the Room:  Strategies, Perspectives and War Stories for Techniques re:  What to do when People come to mediation angry, anxious and afraid.  I'd love to have you attend or include some of your own war stories if you're willing to share them with me.

Jan SchauComment