html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: I wrote to you mid-day:

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I wrote to you mid-day:

I’m at a three-day class on Facilitating Effective Environmental Agreements. It’s pretty good. A few thoughts…

I recognize one of the guys in the class, but I haven’t said anything to him. I can’t imagine the conversation going well:

Me: Hi! We know someone in common!
Him: We do?! Great! Who’s that?
Me: You used to date my faithless dog of a former best friend.
Him: Oh-
Me: It just killed her that you never told her you loved her in the couple years you dated. That once made me mad, but now it makes me laugh and laugh.
Him: Right. Um. Yeah. So, how is she?
Me: Fuck if I know. We haven’t spoken since I told her to get the fuck out of my house.
Him: Um. Well. So. Do you think you guys will ever be friends again?
Me: I dunno. I think that should happen sometime after I stop fantasizing about her slow and painful death. You know, one step at a time. I’m not pushing for anything right now. Baby steps.
Him: Good plan, that. I’m gonna talk to the instructor now.

See how that isn’t really a good conversation? I’m thinking I’ll stay incognito.

The problem, and I’ve seen this in every mediation class I’ve ever taken, is that the simulations are crap. People who take mediation classes are all conciliatory and nice. So they read their role statements, go immediately to potential solutions and talk about those for the whole simulation. Not so hard to mediate those.

Not me, though. I haven’t had the chance yet, but I’ve been prepared by tens of hours of interviewing people in Los Osos. When it is my turn, I’m gonna speculate about embezzling and illicit land deals, call everyone a liar, and say I have it all documented. They will be VERY LUCKY INDEED if I don’t call someone a child molester.


People who take mediation classes are sincere. The instructor was telling a story about a very hostile process that had gone on for years. He said the process had gone through the ‘angry reduction’, where only the most diehard and bitter people remained at meetings. He’d worked with them for several meetings, until finally one day in December, someone blurted out, “Let’s have a holiday party!” The whole room lightened, everyone looked around, there was real excitement until someone else said “We can’t. We hate each other.” The mediation collapsed. I thought that was fucking excellent, but the lunch conversation was all about how sad that was. Whatever.

UPDATE: I thought it was super great that for our longest simulation, I played the farmers in the Klamath Basin. Fuck the fish.


Anonymous SwissarmyD said...

hedgehog's dilemma

10:05 PM  
Anonymous mith said...

"We can’t. We hate each other."

To this day, I'm confounded by people with this sort of mindset; my wife was shocked to discover that my (somewhat large) extended family has no problem discussing religion or politics on a fairly regular basis. Apparently this was a big no-no in her family, because the discussions would get too heated. I've spoken with others and apparently this is more common than I had thought; many families seem to take the position that our religion is our religion and we don't really discuss it critically, and the same goes for our politics.

It wasn't until my mother pointed out something that I had always sort of known intuitively but never really put into words: the understanding that when you discuss heated topics we debate the ideas, not the person advancing those ideas. Not only does this provide a less hostile environment for the discussion of potentially controversial ideas, but that when we decide to take a break from the debate, we're all still friends and there's no animosity toward people just because they have opposing views on an issue.

It's too bad what could have been a decent Christmas party was ruined because the opposing sides chose to argue against the people rather than the ideas, and that this problem was so easily pointed out with just 6 words.

3:12 AM  
Blogger billoo said...

"we debate the ideas, not the person advancing those ideas"

Don't think it's that simple, Mith.

For example, when it comes to religion or politics isn't it sometimes the case that a person very strongly identifies -emotionally and intellectually-with the 'ideas'?

So, even if you're not discussing the person per se, it can certainly appear to be personal.

For example,if a religious person says to a gay person that he thinks homosexuality is morally decadent (for so and so reasons) it is hard to maintain that is just a discussion of ideas, even if he adds: "not you personally".

Equally, if an atheist thinks that religious people are delusional then it's not that easy to enter into a discussion of ideas if one is a religious person (and vice versa).

4:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"[I]t can certainly appear to be personal"

It only seems to work if you have respect and affection for the other party, and they believe that you do. I don't understand why people find it so hard to see other's viewpoints, though. It usually comes down to moderate differences in priorities, and rather than understand that, folks fight over details.

Interesting, though: I get regular emails at work promoting mediation training. I always think "I should do that," and then end up disappointed to find out it is mediTation training.

Megan, in your post, I read mediation as meditation training. My prior on you being a hippy must be pretty high.


7:33 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

That is an awesome story.

The moral is: if they weren't so full of bitterness and anger, they could have had a holiday party.

9:14 AM  
Anonymous David said...

hey, does this mean you're doing a los osos book? :)

11:36 AM  
Anonymous justus said...

I think the conversation would go more like:

You: Hi! We know someone in common!
Him: I know that, Megan.
You: You used to date my faithless dog of a former best friend.
Him: Yes, I did. She wasn't a very good person.
You: It just killed her that you never told her you loved her in the couple years you dated. That once made me mad, but now it makes me laugh and laugh.
Him: I never said I loved her because I always thought about you when I was having sex with her.
You: I think we should engage in someone personal mediation.
Him: My safety word is "amoeba".
You: Just promise not to cry when we're done.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

So perceptive and true, Justus.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Sweet Coalminer said...

ask me some day about family law mediations.

11:16 AM  
Blogger jens said...

"safeword", I thought, or do they do things differently on the West coast?

8:16 PM  

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