I recently finished reading The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (Simon &Schuster, New York 2017) for an upcoming book club discussion. The authors note that we spend the bulk of our lives living forgettable moments. Yet, every once in a while, we have a moment that rises above the mundane: a defining moment: “… a short experience that is both memorable and meaningful.” (Id. at 12.)
While some defining moments are serendipitous, we can create them by invoking one or more of four elements: elevation, insight, pride, and connection. (Id. at 12-14.)
“Elevation” means just that: to rise above the everyday. They “… transcend the normal course of events; they are … extraordinary.” (Id. at 13.)
“Insight” is that “ah-hah” moment; “when we realize something that might influence our lives for decades.” (Id. at 13.) It is usually preceded by a “crystallization of discontent” or a moment when we suddenly see things as they are and not as we want them to be. (Id.)
“Pride” involves moments when we are at our best; we invoke courage that we did not know we had to achieve something momentous. (Id.)
And “Connection” speaks to relationships and sharing our moments. Those moments become stronger because we are sharing them with others. (Id. at 14.)
Can attending a mediation be a defining moment? For many, it is as it provides the opportunity for a dispute to be resolved once and for all. To a “one-shot” player, it is an extraordinary event- one that does not occur daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly. It may be a once-in-a-lifetime event!
And attending a mediation can provide “insight.” One aspect of insight is “tripping over the truth”:
When you have a sudden realization, one that you didn’t see coming, and one that you know viscerally is right, you’ve tripped over the truth. (Id. at 103.)
“Tripping over the truth” is often a three-part process: a clear insight; compressed in time and a discovery made by the party, herself. (Id. at 105.) And as noted, it is usually preceded by a “ “crystallization of discontent”, a dramatic moment when an array of isolated misgivings and complaints became linked….” (Id. at 103.)
More often than not, it is the mediator who helps a party “trip over the truth” by asking the hard questions such as “what if” or “have you considered the opposite”, or perspective taking, etc., questions. By raising doubt in the mind of the party that her case is not 100 % winnable, she may develop “clear” insight into the possibility that she could lose, during the compressed mediation. In sum, she has the “ah-hah” moment and becomes more reasonable in her settlement proposals.
For many, it takes courage to attend mediation as it is a foreign experience. And it takes courage to admit that perhaps your side of the dispute is not a slam dunk winner; that perhaps settlement is the best means to resolve this matter. And so, the party that does settle should take pride in doing so: it is tough to admit that you do not have the greatest case in the world.
And “connection”; is what a mediator strives for: building trust and rapport and thus a relationship with each party. In Chapter 11, the authors relate how having the teachers simply visit the homes of their students just to meet the parents and to chat and for no other purpose turned a school with horrendous discipline problems and distrust between parents and teachers into a school with well- behaved kids and parents who wanted to be involved. Why? The small talk during those home visits built trust and rapport and thus a social relationship and shared meaning. Suddenly, the school and its teachers were “responsive” to the interests and needs of both the students and their parents. (Id. at 221-232.) Just like mediators: finding out what matters to the parties; what are their needs and interests and being responsive to them. (Id. at 233-246.)
While this book was not written with resolving disputes in mind, its principles are applicable. It is easy to turn settlement into a defining moment by elevating the mediation into something special in which the mediator, using trust and rapport (aka connection) helps the parties “trip over the truth” thereby allowing the parties to act with courage and resolve their dispute once and for all.
Yes, indeed, mediation can be a defining moment!
… Just something to think about.
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