And the beat goes on…

And the beat goes on…

In response to today’s writing prompt:  Saga

To me, the word saga means a tale or story.  I picture Norsemen sitting around a campfire telling stories, their helmets lying on the ground beside them. They talk of their battles; the successes and the defeats.  I picture them passing on knowledge through these tales.

It reminds me of a recent book I read.  It is an entertaining saga by E. Michael Bosso called Cherisse. What strikes me about Michael’s tale is the way the conflict develops between the married couple and the interaction with a third person.  In my opinion, the interaction between Mary and her husband, Steve.  The book is told from Steve’s point of view and we watch as he transforms himself and other’s around him.

Steve and Mary don’t know how to talk to one another.  More importantly, they don’t know how to listen to one another.  They are constantly thinking the worst of one another.  As a married couple, they have grown distant and are only going through the motions of being married without any of the joy they once had.  Their communication patterns are classic.  Instead of saying what they feel, they reply in sarcasm and retort.  Even when they try to bridge the gap, they don’t take the extra step to open up and talk to each other about how they really feel.

In this novel, there is a third party, Cherisse.  She acts as a witness to their interaction.  In a way, she acts as a mediator, but not an impartial one.  Cherisse tries to tell them indirectly through her own life history (her own saga, if you will) how important it is to listen to one another.  She especially tell’s Steve again and again that he needs to LISTEN, something he struggles with due to his own faulty assumptions.

What I love about this story is the transformation that takes place in Mary and Steve’s interactions — how it moves from not being able to talk to one another, to breaking down completely, to building back in a positive way.  This is an excellent example of how transformative mediation transforms the interactions of people in conflict.

Although Cherisse is not a mediator and has a bias, she still acts as a neutral party to the conflict.  Also, all of the work ultimately is done by Mary and Steve who finally find their own way through the conflict.  Once they start to recognize each other’s different needs and ways of doing things, they become more empowered to act in a different manner and open up to more possibilities in their relationship.

This is why I say that listening is a skill.  It can help keep our relationships positive and build new ones or repair ones that have cracks.  And, the saga can continue.  Conflict breaks the continuity in our relationships, listening builds it over generations.  And the beat goes on…

 

The featured image is a painting by Tricia Calvert.  I don’t know how it is related to the theme, but I like the image.  You can see more of her art on Instagram.

It’s a Brick and Mortar Thing…

It’s a Brick and Mortar Thing…

Today’s word prompt:  brick!

I can’t think about bricks without thinking of what holds them together — mortar!

Bricks are metaphors for all the skills and capacities we bring and mortar the way we weave them together.  Or, maybe bricks are our stories and mortar is the act of listening.

Using this metaphor, I think of the work I do in mediation, especially transformative mediation.  When someone is in conflict, the bricks are not being held together.  The mortar is not working.  There is nothing to hold the bricks together.  Think of a wall as a community.  Each brick is essential to the wall.  Each brick is an individual in the community.  If any one or two bricks start to crumble, it jeopardizes the whole wall.  Everything could come tumbling down!

So, the question is how do we transform the wall?  If  you think of the mortar as listening, then when listening and responding to someone’s stories breaks down (the mortar) there are cracks in the wall.  At the worst level, the cracks lead to decay.  The best way to stop the decay is to find a way to listen!

In mediation, the mediator’s prime job is listening and reflecting.  This process helps the other parties start to hear each other again.  Like the mortar, it helps rebuild the connection between the parties.  Once understanding is reached, the parties can start to make decisions and those decisions will start transforming the way they talk to one another.  It provides an opportunity for repair!

I love the idea of brick walls standing firm in their relationship with one another.  As we all should stand firm in our relationship with each other!

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Today’s images are from my phone.  They are the bricks in my home.  They are my wall.  So, a part of my living is in this post!

Using A Blended Learning Approach to Teach Mediation

Using A Blended Learning Approach to Teach Mediation

I have been thinking of how to use online learning to teach an important subject like mediation.  While it is easy to impart the underlying premises of mediation, particularly transformative mediation, it is difficult to assess how to do a good job of assuring learners have the necessary skills to be able to practice the model.  Transformative mediation (TM) requires a set of skills that are essential to success in the model.  TM is also a paradigm shift for most people as learning how to listen and support another person’s decision making and perspective is not natural to us culturally.

Recently, I enrolled in a  University of Florida Blended Learning Course through Canvas that teaches how to design and develop a blended learning approach.  The course teaches a blended approach using methods in online learning as well as face to face learning.  This blend of learning I think can be exceptional for teaching transformative mediation as it can provide learning opportunities that can be taught asynchronously according to the learner’s own style as well as include a face to face component that provides an opportunity to assess their learning and provide challenges for future learning.

Below are my initial thoughts on the blended approach after my first lesson.  It includes my vision for how a transformative mediation session may look like.

  1. A blended approach to mediation training would start with online learning of underlying principles and beliefs of transformative mediation, including the definition of conflict and what TM is.
  2. Online sessions can also include discussion forums and a place for online reflection that helps develop the understanding of the principles and practices.
  3. Online sessions would be followed up by face to face learning that would include observation of actual mediation, role play and skill building activities.
  4. After the final session, a regular one on one coaching session will help develop learners through a mentoring process that further enhances their learning.

As the course progresses, I will include more blog posts on what I think of the blended approach and my design for the course.  I may also explore other courses I would like to design and deliver.

Conflict and Culture: A World View

Conflict and Culture:  A World View

 

This is another old post from ten years ago.  It is interesting for me to revisit these old posts.  I see areas I see differently.  I plan to clarify how my thinking has changed in future posts.

When I was a little girl, I remember being in the middle of my parent’s arguments, listening to the sound of loud voices and the crash of plates against a wall.  It would seem there was so much discord in those sounds, but I also remember the laughter in the middle of the greatest conflict.  I was raised to think of conflict as a natural part of living and not to be afraid of it, but to embrace it.  Later, when I lived in Indonesia and India, I realized that conflict is handled very differently.  Indeed, conflict is even defined differently.

The definition I use most often is one that comes from the transformative framework of mediation.  Transformative mediation defines conflict as a crisis in human interaction.  This definition fits very neatly into the differences in conflict I experienced in life and the differences in cultural perception.  I remember the first time I experienced the resolution of a marital dispute by my father-in-law, Pitaji, from India.  The dispute was between my husband’s younger brother and his wife.  Munnu, his brother, was frustrated and yelling at his wife.  Pitaji, my father-in-law, took Munnu aside and nodded as he yelled.  It seemed to me at the time that my father-in-law agreed.  Munnu’s tirade ended and there was calm again in the home.

My first impression was that this was not a good way to intervene in their dispute.  But, later, Pitaji took Meera aside and talked to her gently.  He listened first to her feelings and then made suggestions for her to follow that included feelings Munnu had expressed.  He also had a private talk with Munnu.  He tried to help Munnu see how unreasonable he had been and how his reactions were not a good way to handle the situation.  This was my first experience with mediation.  It wasn’t called mediation.  But, it was the resolution of a dispute by a third party. It was a mediation that was an integral part of a culture.  There were several items that were important in the mediation of this marital dispute:

  1. A recognition of the person in conflict,
  2. A cooling off period to let emotions settle,
  3. A discussion of the problems and,
  4. A suggested set of solutions to a problem.

Conflict in India, in my experience, is expected.  It is a way to negotiate and a way to resolve issues. It is reflected in the marketplace, within the workplace, and within the home.  It is characterized by loud voices and arguments that end finding a middle ground.

In contrast to India, Indonesians, and particularly the Javanese, deal with conflict very differently.  In Indonesia harmony is valued.  Maintaining harmony in relationships is also important.  Because of this, conflict must be within the confines of maintaining harmony in interpersonal and group relationships.  Loud voices are frowned upon.  In fact, the angrier one feels, the more likely he/she will lower their voice to a whisper.  Also, conflicts are managed indirectly rather than directly.  By dealing with conflict indirectly, relationships are not hurt by words said in anger or haste.

There are as many ways to approach conflict across cultures as there are within our own U.S. boundaries.  We often consider ourselves a melting pot of cultures.  Some say we are a mosaic and some a salad bowl.  So, how does culture and conflict exhibit itself here?  In general, we don’t value conflict in our culture, especially in the workplace.  In the workplace conflict is often ignored or handled directly and swiftly.  Conflict is not talked about openly.  Those who are in conflict are expected to have their conflicts privately and not have them publicly aired.  In the workplace emotions should not be expressed in an exaggerated manner.  Rather, they are to be expressed with an even tone of voice and fewer gestures.  Those cultures in the United States who are more accustomed to expressiveness are frowned upon and individuals who practice expressive forms of communication in the workplace are often not provided opportunities to move into middle and upper-level management positions.

How do we, then, deal with conflict in a way that respects individual differences and choice?  In defining conflict as a crisis in human interaction, we can understand that conflict often arises from differences in communication styles, values, and perceptions.  Recognizing conflict as an opportunity to uncover the rich differences in thought is a step towards finding more effective ways to nurture diversity in the workplace.  Mediation is one method that can be used to unearth the underlying cause of conflict.  But, there are more conflict resolution techniques for managing conflict that include a variety of communication strategies, organizational design, and management of physical and emotional space.  Ultimately, the design of an effective conflict management system must include a thoughtful discovery of the culture of the organization as well as the cultures that coexist within the organization.