As one might suspect, mediations are more likely to end in settlement when the participants are in a good mood or are happy. Parties in bad moods make a mediator’s job more difficult; their overall negative outlook on life turns even the best settlement proposals into “bad deals”.
So, when I saw an article in the October 19, 2019 edition of The Economist about happiness and history (“How to reveal a country’s sense, over the years, of its own well-being”), it intrigued me because I know that to some degree, our personal happiness is tied to our country’s well being and overall sense of happiness as a nation.
To determine the connection between wealth and happiness, two researchers- Daniel Sgroi of the University of Warwick and Eugenio Proto of the University of Glasgow (both in Britain), reviewed millions of books and newspaper articles published since 1920 in the United States, Great Britain Germany and Italy. (Id.) They approached the issue in this way as previous research had shown that people’s happiness or lack thereof is reflected in what is said or written. (Id.)
With respect to the United States, these researchers found that the overall level of happiness of Americans fell during not only the Civil War but also during World War I and World War II with lowest point occurring at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 when U.S. soldiers had to flee Saigon in a “humiliating defeat.”. (Id.) Thus, it seems that being involved in war affects the level of happiness of Americans!
The researchers also found that the state of the GDP or gross national product also affected the level of happiness. Wealth of a nation affects the happiness of its citizens. The economic boom of the Roaring 20’s in America did much to increase our happiness level. (Id.) Notably, the Great Depression that followed in the 1930’s greatly lowered that level of happiness.
Notably, our health and life expectancy also affect our level of happiness. “A one-year increase in longevity, for example, has the same effect on national happiness as a 4.3% increase in GDP … and it is warfare that causes the biggest drops in happiness. On average it takes a 30% increase in GDP to raise happiness by the amount that a year of war causes it to fall.” (Id.)
The researchers note that in conclusion, “…while increasing the national income is important to happiness, it is not as important as ensuring the population is healthy and avoiding conflict.” (Id.)
While we are not aware of it, it seems that our general state of happiness as a nation may well affect the moods of parties coming to mediation to resolve a conflict. Our national conflicts may well sublimely impact our willingness to settle our own personal conflicts as will the state of our health both as a nation and as individuals.
This generalized and unconscious sense of well-being and/or lack of happiness is definitely something to consider at my next mediation. Unwittingly, it impacts the moods of the parties and their willingness to settle, providing me with a greater challenge and thus opportunity to help others resolve their conflicts.
…. Just something to think about.
P. S. International Day of Happiness is March 20th!
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