Vail Daily column: An opportunity for mediation
November 20, 2016
As we adjust to the new paradigm resulting from the election, we are still struggling to balance the poles whose swing ushered in such change.
We are subsumed by violent protests, physical and verbal attacks — the immature reactions of those who reside in the extremes. Negativity is the dominant theme as it hovers menacingly over our words and actions. Immersed in the present, worried about the future, we forget that our past is full of much greater hardships that were not only endured, but conquered.
Any shift, seismic or minuscule, affords opportunities to evolve and prosper in the newly-created landscape. Typically, this is viewed pejoratively, as when financiers reap huge profits during recessions. But, exploitation need not be construed as negative. The forces of cooperation and compromise must be predatory, need to swoop in as a falcon would to take advantage of the opportunity to bridge our current gulf. Now is the opportune time for mediation to rise.
We have proven that we are adept at fraction. Entire industries are devoted to furthering the divides that reside within our population; legal and media chief among them. We have mechanized the process of conflict, have given hate more than enough venues.
Consequently and inevitably, our society has become so intensely stratified and segmented that it is nigh impossible to spot a cohesive whole. We are not united, we are untied. To again coalesce, we need guidance from those who have been trained to bring about cohesion. Mediators have devoted their lives to that cause and no time seems more apt for their ascendancy.
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Mediators are used to dealing with pessimism. Almost every mediation starts with declarations from the adverse parties that there is no way that the problem will be solved. As a litigator salivates over the thought of vanquishing the opposition, the mediator relishes the chance to bring two people together who are doing their utmost to stay apart. He does not shy away from a difficult situation, knowing that hardened hearts can soften with the right dialogue and the appropriate empathy.
Mediators are used to dealing with fear. Because of the voluntary, non-binding nature of the mediation process, the fear of failure is absent, or at least should be. This fearlessness imbues the mediator with the ability to be more bold, more creative, more inspirational with his approach. The more seemingly intractable the problem, such as in our current national crisis, the more that the mediator can and must risk in order to close the gap. With the stakes at their highest, the potential for life-altering outcomes is within the mediator's grasp.
Mediators are used to dealing with pettiness. The mediator's ears have heard levels of name-calling that would shame a second-grader. The mediator witnesses the most inconsequential details forming the basis for the most intense disagreements. He has seen people stand on principles so flimsy that they should be doused in marinara. He has been unable to prevent a person from walking away from an excellent compromise because of nothing but pure, unadulterated spite. The lack of grace is dispiriting, but it does not dissuade the mediator from his chosen endeavor.
Mediators are used to dealing with rage. To remain placidly in the middle while each side stokes its emotional wildfire is the ideal to which every mediator is devoted. The fisticuffs are not always figurative. There are times when bodily harm is attempted, if hopefully not achieved. Mediators should carry umbrellas to shield themselves from the spittle that flies from those whose bellicosity leaves their minds and jaws unhinged. But, even in the face of this venom, a volatile environment is the mediator's preferred habitat.
Mediators are used to dealing with errors. The mediator does not operate in a world where the prevailing fiction is that perfection is possible. He is comfortable with flaws, his own and those of the people that surround him. The mediator intuitively understands that facts are relative to one's perspective, that there are no absolute truths. It is the recognition of mutual culpability and vulnerability that allows the mediator to construct positive solutions.
The mediator's experience prepares him perfectly for this new, fractured epoch. It is not the litigators who will kill their golden goose of conflict. It is not the bankers who will preach abnegation. It is not the doctors who will stitch our psychic wounds, their hands being restrained by the overlords of insurance. No, it is the mediators who must assume the mantle of leadership to deliver us from a misaligned destiny.
T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner and mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, please contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, email@example.com or visit http://www.rkv law.com.
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