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Posts by Jennifer E. Davis

Mediation – The Graceful Art of Restructuring Conflict

By on Sep 27, 2018 in Blog |

  Conflict often seems to be an inevitable part of our lives – whether on the national scene, at the workplace or in our families. Frequently conflict will seem to sort itself out, usually with a compromise or even a capitulation of one person and while it rarely goes away, it can lie beneath the surface so that we forget its presence, at least until the next time conflict peeks out at us. But what about the conflict that doesn’t go away? Maybe you’re dealing with an intractable fellow employee, who seems determined to destroy your reputation at the workplace. Perhaps your child or step-child is thwarting your every effort to parent competently. Or it could be that your partner in life has somehow changed, or maybe you have different goals now and it appears that your marriage is ending. These types of conflicts can threaten our very well-being and may clash with our perspective of who we are and where we think we stand in the world. We become competitive and defensive. Our viewpoint narrows and hardens into concrete positions. We start to describe our lives as a series of episodes, where we are the wronged party, the victim, the helpless one. We no longer know which action to choose. We lose the capacity to resolve the conflict in our life. The paradigm of mediation suits the resolution of these conflicts well because the mediator gently moves the participants away from firm positions and complaints into a discussion of goals, concerns, dreams and interests. This is the area that is rich with solutions because now we can discover areas of commonality and mutual understanding. When participants are invited to take a step back and to take a long view of the crisis, conflict can recede as options – not compromises – begin to present themselves. The co-workers can agree that they each want to advance to positions of more responsibility and that the success of the company is important to them both. They can now move beyond mutual sabotage and plot a course built on their respective strengths and value to the company. The parent and teenager can understand that independence is an important and necessary part of...

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The Unexpected Collaborator

By on Apr 12, 2016 in Blog |

Article appeared in “The Collaborative Review”. The Journal of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals FALL 2015 / VOLUME 15, ISSUE 12.   I volunteered to create an icebreaker for a recent retreat for about 25 multi-disciplinary collaborative professionals. I chose a simple concept – tossing a ball of yarn to a participant, who would then tell a little bit about themselves before tossing it to another participant. Some folks were a little nervous, some clearly didn’t want to do it, still others wanted to just get on with the retreat. There was laughter, and constant reminders to hold onto the yarn before tossing. A simple enough concept, with extraordinary results. People chose to challenge themselves. While occasionally a participant would toss the yarn across the table, most chose to hurl the yarn far down the single table, with the result that the yarn became stretched and interwoven in increasingly complicated ways. And as the yarn pattern became more intricate, the stories became broader, richer and more intimate. The initial nervous laughter at the table decreased and then disappeared all together. The participant-speakers became more thoughtful and revelatory with regard to the story each chose to share. The participant-listeners became more engaged and respectful of the intimate knowledge of another’s story. We recognized at that moment how little we really know of the collaborative professionals with whom we work. In addition, there was the unspoken communication that arose from the handling of the yarn. One or two participants set the yarn on the table before them as they spoke but most continued to handle the yarn in unconscious ways either spooling and unspooling the ball, or twisting a thread of it, or tossing it lightly back and forth between hands as they spoke. Several people held the yarn and twisted it so, so tightly. Others gathered their thoughts by staring into the ball before they spoke. One woman continued to pull the yarn as she told her story so that she had a pile of yarn before her that had to be rewound before tossing to the next participant. How the yarn was handled spoke to the depth of the sharing. At the end we stood, still holding our...

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