American University presentation: This month I had the pleasure of speaking on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to Matthew Pascocello’s American Legal Culture class at American University. The class was online, of course, due to the pandemic. It was interesting to note that students are not required to turn their cameras on during class. The students were highly engaged and asked lots of interesting questions. We started off with an icebreaker role play. Students played the roles of Sandy and Al who just broke up and needed to divide their stuff. Unbeknownst to Sandy, Al wants to get back together and unbeknownst to Al, Sandy has been seeing someone else. We did the role play three different times using eight different student volunteers: first as a negotiation, second as an arbitration, and last as a mediation.
Last ADR class of semester at GMU law school: I taught my last ADR class at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, wrapping up my 7th semester teaching. The class focused in pertinent part on the work of Bill Eddy and high conflict personalities, as well as the work of Nina Meierding and cross-cultural and gender issues. It’s always sad to end the semester and to say goodbye to my law students.
High conflict personalities and Bill Eddy: I’ve talked a lot about Bill Eddy and high conflict personalities in previous blog posts. The core issue is that when a high conflict person is having a dispute with another person, the response that works is to immediately shift over from blaming, criticizing, and attaching each other to problem solving as a starting point. Bill says to connect with empathy, attention, and respect (EAR) and to use proposals as building blocks of making agreements. Read more about Bill’s approach in his book So What’s Your Proposal?
Cross-Cultural/Gender issues and Nina Meierding: Nina believes that everyone operates with implicit bias – we don’t even know we have bias most of the time. Bias affects everything that we do. Nina believes that by changing a person’s behavior, you can eventually change his or her beliefs. Here is a story that Nina shared with the Edwards Mediation Academy regarding a mediation she conducted involving cross-cultural and gender issues:
The mediation centered on a doctor who came from a country where there was a historical power distance between men and women. Due to his cultural beliefs, he made the work environment difficult for the nurses who worked with him. When Nina met with the physician, she said that he had the power to make one of three decisions:
1. He could believe what he wants about men and women, continue behaving the way he had been behaving, and the decision would be to not work at the medical facility any longer;
2. He could believe what he wants and decide to stay at the medical facility and change his behavior; or
3. He could change his beliefs and change his behavior which means he had decided to stay.
The physician chose Option #2. He asked Nina to help him change his behavior. By not trying to change his beliefs at the onset, Nina helped him change his behavior – and his beliefs may follow. (See Susan Franson Edwards’ 2018 article on Culture and Its Impact on Mediation.)
Ellice Halpern, J.D., is a Virginia Supreme Court certified general and family mediator.