October 11, 2010

From Thailand: Choosing Peace Is A Full-time Job For Us All

Some people think that mediators, as fonts of sage notions of compromise, virtue, and peace, walk around following their own advice all the time.  My response when people say something like that to me is, “Ah, no, we’re as human as the next person.”

In our own personal conflicts, we mediators may snap at our spouses, momentarily forget the value of listening, or fall into trying to convince someone to see things our way, rather than looking for how to bridge the gap between our view and theirs.

For instance, talking with a dear friend today, I expressed frustration about an email exchange I was having with another friend who is organizing my travel from Bangkok, Thailand to the Northeastern mountains where I’m going to be staying for a few weeks. And lo and behold, my dear friend skips a beat, and says, “Well, maybe you want to consider picking up the phone to talk with her and sort it out.”  I almost laughed out loud. How funny is it to hear your own good advice kindly told to you when you need it most?  I have said to clients what feels like a million times: do not communicate via email if there’s the slightest tension around what you’re trying to communicate.  My dear friend and I smiled over the fact that even though my entire professional life is focused on helping people resolve their conflicts, when it gets personal, my skills can evaporate and my response can be as clouded as the next person’s.

The latest brain research, which is currently going through the mediation and Collaborative Practice professional communities like wildfire, posits that when we’re in conflict our problem-solving brains circuits out and we go to a lower functioning level.  In that lower functioning place, we’ve lost the capacity to remember our own good advice, to see the peaceful response that’s right in front of us as an option.  And what you may take from me and my friend’s mirth over a mediator forgetting to pick up the phone to clear up a misunderstanding, is that choosing peace takes practice.  You have to do it over, and over, and over again.  The brain research shows us that the more you choose peace, the easier it will become to do so over time because, by practicing choosing peace, you can learn to keep your entire brain engaged in problem-solving, rather than categorizing moments as conflict and having the higher functioning part of your brain circuit out.  Peace is a habit to get into rather than something that’s as easy as making a simple decision once.  And like all good habits, choosing peace can take time and focus to develop; it takes work. It’s a decision about how to view the world, and in turn, how to conduct yourself, that one needs to make anew in every single big and little moment that makes up our lives.

So if you’re deciding to choose peace for the first time or the one thousandths time, keep it up and be patient with yourself, as only practice makes perfect.

Her intelligence goes without saying.

Unmani’s level of fluid skill and preparation reveals her complete dedication for helping others find their way through the legal mazes of our society. Her intelligence goes without saying. I agree with previous clients’ testimonials about her kindness and empathy for her clients; you really do feel that she is invested in you. Couldn’t recommend her more…

- Scott Z.
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