Embracing Differences




This year's newsletter will be a series of "Life Lessons", in tribute to my late mother. They are lessons that have served me well as I apply them to mediation.  

My mother's mother used to fondly refer to our mixed family as "The Whole United Nations".  My own mother had a natural curiosity and genuine love for folks of different cultures, ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic circumstance.  This manifest itself in her love of travel and reading, but also in social engagement and embrace of the people who came into her life.  She lived life with open arms, an open heart and an open mind to other ideas, traditions, religions and thought.  She eagerly asked questions, accepted and included extended family and friends as family members and generally went well beyond an "open mind" to actually love and embrace the traditions brought by our Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Agnostic, African-American, gay or straight, Chinese, Hispanic and Persian family.  She was a quintessential 21st Century American woman. 

In most mediations over which I preside, particularly in employment mediation, the conflict has arisen as the result of a failure to embrace, a lack of curiosity and a consequent lack of respect for "the other".  It is only by consciously "leaning in" to the conflict, that I can assist in translating the feelings that underlie the conflict to each side.  

Attorneys, in my view, have a responsibility to take a bird's eye perspective for their clients and attempt to unwind the conflict by looking at where that breakdown occurred.  Oftentimes, the case cannot be settled without first expressing some openness to moving beyond "tolerance" to an embrace of the differences that make up our workplaces, our community and even our families.  We live and work closely together in a multi-cultural environment and tolerance is simply not enough, in my view, to permit everyone to truly thrive.

The next time you are participating in a mediation, I recommend you take a moment before you begin to consider those differences that set your clients apart from their adversary.  It may make all the difference in resolving the case, and, in this troubling time in our Country, in soldiering on towards a more peaceful, less conflictual life for all of us.

P.S.  On January 26, 2017, I will be presenting an MCLE to the Century City Bar Association on Ethics in Mediation at the Law Offices of Greenberg, Glusker in Century City.  This will provide those valuable Specialty Credits in time for MCLE Compliance.  You may sign up and attend here:  Century City Bar Association

Best Regards,

Jan Frankel Schau


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