Episode 19: Engaging With Discourse

Music: Society Builders paves the way, to a

better world, to a better day.

A united approach to building a new society.

Join our conversation, for social transformation

Society Builders. Society Builders

with your host, Duane Varan.

Duane: Welcome to another exciting

episode of Society Builders.

And thanks for joining the

conversation for Social Transformation.

Today, we continue our exploration

of the science of depolarization.

We have an incredibly exciting

guest today, an amazing guest.

It's the great Gary Friedman.

Gary is a pioneer in the mediation discipline.

He's published three books.

He runs courses on mediation

for the American Bar Association.

He's taught negotiation at both Harvard and Stanford.

He works with international bodies like

the World Intellectual Property Organization.

He's co founder of the center for Understanding and

Conflict, which has trained more than 10,000 mediators.

So this is really one of the

global pioneers in the mediation discipline. So, Gary...

Welcome to Society Builders.

Gary: Well, thanks for that way overflowery introduction.

Duane: So Gary... Gary: I never thought of myself as great.

Duane: You are great, Gary! You are great.

It's been amazing.

What I love about your story going back to the

beginning, which I guess we can talk about, is the

sense of coherence that you developed in your career.

You started off as a lawyer, and

at some point you really weren't happy

with what the legal profession was doing.

And you made this transition, back in the

early 70s before it was kind of cool.

Maybe you could tell us a little bit about your story.

How did you transition from law to mediation?

Gary: Well, I was living on the East Coast, practicing law

with my family firm, my dad, my uncle, cousins, and

I was in court every day for five years, and

I was actually pretty good at it.

But when I kind of took a step back and

I took a look at what it was doing to

the people, including me, I felt like there was something

about this that just was not very healthy.

And particularly the kind of power that I was able

to use as a trial lawyer in court felt like

it was something that often made things worse between people.

And even when people would win, there would

be this kind of feeling afterwards, like that

I had and that they had.

What was the cost of that?

Duane: It must have been hard, though,

making the transition to mediation.

Gary: I mean, mediation wasn't a thing back then.

No, there was no transition to be made. I was out.

I quit.

I was on the east coast and I moved

to the west coast and I was done.

There was no going back.

And I was not interested in anything remotely connected

to the law, but I was interested and had

been interested for a while in what happens inside

people and understanding myself and what had happened to

me in that process of becoming a trial lawyer

and doing the work that I was doing.

And so I did a lot of, I

would say, deep soul searching and diving.

And it was the 70s, you could do that.

And as part of that, I realized that while I was done

with the law, the law wasn't done with me.

Something there that was really important to me, and

I couldn't just turn my back on it.

But I didn't have any idea of what to do

about that because I knew I didn't want to go

back and be the kind of lawyer that I was.

I met another guy, Jack Himmelstein.

And together we created a partnership.

And the next thing we knew, it was the 70s.

We had half a million dollars from the

National Institute of Mental Health to see if

we could change law professors attitudes.

And in changing law professors attitudes, the idea was

this could be a way to actually have an

impact on the profession, to be kinder, gentler, more.

We called it humanistic.

It's actually called the Project for the Study

and Application of Humanistic Education and Law.

Long title, but basically it was about

bringing the more human aspects to the

interactions in the law classroom.

Second year in the evaluators came out and

they said, 'looks like it's pretty good.

People are really moved by it.

It's changing things.

But what difference is this going to make?

How is practice of law going to be

any different as a result of this?'

And we said, 'we don't know.'

So they said, 'well, you better find out

if you want to keep being funded.'

And so that's when I hung out a shingle

as a kind of experiment with two ideas.

One was I wasn't ever going to do

anything that didn't feel right to me again.

And secondly, I was going to be open to

trying new things, things I'd never tried before.

And so one of those things was a

couple of people came to see me.

I was kind of getting known as a weird lawyer.

And they said, can you help us get a divorce?

And I said, 'Sure.

I can be on one side, the

other person can negotiate for themselves.'

And the wife turned to me and she said,

'you sound like all the rest of them.

Why can't you just sit in the middle?

Help us get through this together.

We want to have a

peaceful, friendly relationship afterwards.

Why can't you do that?'

And I thought, you know, I got to think about that.

Went home, thought about it.

They came back the next week and

I said, 'I think you're right.

I think I should be able to do that.

The only problem is I have no idea how.

So if you'll bear with me, we'll

see if we can create this.'

And that's how it began.

I didn't even call it mediation for about six

months, but people just started knocking down my doors

quite quickly because people were so thirsty to have

more control over the lives than they felt once

they were in the legal system.

They felt they were just putty in the hands

of the system of the way it worked.

And this was a very foreign idea

for the legal industry at the time.

Duane: I understand you had a little bit of

drama there as you tried to...

Gary: Yeah. Lawyers were not happy that I was doing this.

The bar association was not happy.

They started an investigation, and they said

'we think what you're doing is unethical.'

And I said, 'I invite your investigation, because if you

do it, I'm going to make it public, because I

think this is too obviously good a thing for people,

and the self interest of lawyers in the Bar Association

should not be more important than what's best for people.

And so, please, let's make this public.'

I didn't hear from them again for a few years

when they came back, and they said, 'would you come

and talk to us about what you're doing?'

Duane: What a great story, Gary

What a great story.

So, over the course of these past, I

don't know, 40, 50 years, you've developed this

very particular model of mediation, which you call,

you know, the understanding based model of mediation.

Can you tell us a little bit about

how that came to be and what it

is and what differentiates it from other approaches?

Gary: Yeah, the idea of the understanding based model is we're

so used to, when people are in conflict, feeling like

the way conflict gets resolved is you turn up the

heat and you apply the coercion threats, wheel whatever you

can do to get people to move toward each other.

And that's typically how lawyers negotiate.

That often has a kind of blowback afterwards.

Maybe people reach the deal, but there's

often a kind of regret afterwards.

And certainly it doesn't do a lot to help people.

As a matter of fact, lawyers often

would say the test of a good

agreement, whether both sides are equally dissatisfied.

Duane: So funny, you're right.

We hear that all the time.

Gary: Yeah. So we thought we could do better.

And if we use this other power, this underutilized power,

power of understanding and if people can really understand what

they care about and what the other person cares about

and the situation and use the power of that that

out of that, we might be able to find results

that people feel like respond to their individual needs and

what they think is important in their lives, rather than

what other people think should be important to them.

And that that could bring a

whole different quality of relationship and

understanding and feeling about the result.

The trick is, as lawyers, we often feel like

it's not easy to just say, okay, give away

the power to the people to decide.

What we often like to do is we like to tell people

what to do, and people like to be told what to do.

The problem with that is that it underestimates the

potential wisdom that can come from people actually finding

out what they really care about and finding their

solution rather than somebody else's idea of what they

should be doing with their lives.

And so we think that comes out of understanding

and working with people in a different kind of

way, where it's not coercive and where the people

really are at the center of the process and

the mediator supports them and helped guide them through.

Duane: Yeah, this speaks to this whole idea in

your model around letting parties own the conflict,

empowering people to solve their own problems.

Gary: Yeah, it's really radical because many lawyers feel like

when they take on a case, it's on them.

They feel a responsibility weighed

very heavily on them.

They have nightmares, they carry

it around all the time.

And so this idea really flips that on its head.

And what it puts in its place is saying, what

if the people who created the problem, who understand their

own lives better than anybody from the outside ever could

and are going to have to live with a result?

What about if we put them at the center,

the process and have them make the decisions?

And we just supported that.

And so that, of course, puts a lot of people in a

position of saying, well, then what am I supposed to do?

Am I just chopped liver?

Duane: So, Gary, we were talking about the need

to empower the parties to give them ownership.

And of course, that changes fundamentally the role

of the mediator, as we've been discussing.

But what is the role of

the mediator in that new landscape?

Gary: Well, you have to bring understanding to every

bit of the process and understanding people and

being able to show them you understand them.

There's a technique we call the loop of understanding, where

we reflect back to people what we understand them to

be saying, and then we check it out.

Did I get that right?

And they say, no, you didn't get it right.

And then we say great.

Tell us what we missed.

And then we go until they're satisfied we've

demonstrated our understanding of them to their satisfaction.

Duane: Yeah, let's talk about looping.

I understand that's one of the key constructs in

this model, this idea not just of getting people

to listen, but the idea, as you were expressing

it, of making sure that what people think they're

hearing is actually what the other person is kind

of like intending to communicate.

Gary: Yeah. I'm so impressed with how

you've done your homework here.

Duane: Your work is great.

You're doing amazing work, Gary.

You really are.

Gary: I'm thrilled to have you understand it so well.

Yes, that's really the idea is to really not stop

until the person really confirms that you've got it.

And what this means, especially for lawyers, but other

people as well, therapists, other people, the field is

wide open, doesn't have to be the employers.

But the idea is we follow them rather than lead them.

So that means when we follow them, that's much

harder to do because actually you can't follow them.

You can't loop unless you listen, and you

can't listen unless you've turned your attention to

now what's happening before you in this moment.

And many times, people are two steps ahead.

Somebody comes into a lawyer's office and

the lawyer might say, in five minutes,

oh, I know where this case goes.

This is case number 42.

And so I won't tell them that yet.

I'll sit here and humor them and we'll go through it.

But I know I've done this

before, I've seen this case before. Reality.

You haven't?

You've never seen this case before?

This case has never happened before

in the history of the world.

And these people are people that are now

they're unique, and we have to find out

who they are and support them.

And that means we really have to work

hard to understand and realize they're not our

picture of who we think they are.

Duane: And I guess from what you describe, part of

that path to that quest for understanding is really

getting at what the real issues are, not what

they appear to be at the surface, but kind

of like what's really behind the surface.

I think you call this going down the WHY trail.

Gary: Yes, that's right.

DuaneMaybe you could tell us a little bit about that.

Gary: Yes. So people fight about things.

They're often money and relationships

and stuff like that.

And if you stay at the level at which they

disagree, then you're not going to resolve the conflict.

So you have to go underneath the conflict.

Einstein said that you can't solve a problem at

its own level, so you have to find out

what's there, what's underneath, what is it that's really

at stake for you underneath this disagreement about money?

What do you really care about?

What's really important to you in terms your own life's

priorities, looking at this problem in the context of that

and see if we can find that for both people.

And the idea is, if we can find it

for both people, then when we come to a

resolution, hopefully we can find a resolution that takes

into account what's important to both.

And that's why it won't feel like the test

of good agreement is that you're equally dissatisfied.

It means you can both find in the result and

the money and whatever else you've decided you can see

reflected the things that you really care about in your

life that make a difference for you. Duane: Amazing.

Gary: Easier said, then done.

Duane: Well, that's why you provide the training.

I think your basic courses is 40

hours of training, is that right? Gary: Yes.

Duane: What do you do in 40 hours of training?

Gary: Oh, my goodness.

It's very intensive.

We're all together.

One of the things about our model of mediation,

which makes it actually very different, this is not

the typical form of mediation that's used the dominant

mediation model is one that actually has a lot

of hallmarks of the traditional model.

There's a lot of coercion and you get people

in separate rooms and you caucus with them.

And then the idea is you get each of

them to move until you've made a deal, but

it's you that's made the deal rather than they.

So this is really different. It's harder.

Everybody works harder.

The mediator works harder, the parties work harder.

The lawyers, if they are participating, they're supportive,

but they work harder than they would if

they were in a more traditional form.

So it really is a very different kind

of stance that we all have to find

ourselves as collaborative problem solvers, supporting the parties

to be in the center of it all.

Duane: Yeah.

So let's do a case study.

I've read in Amanda Ripley's book High Conflict.

I read this story of

your interaction with the symphony.

So maybe we can use the symphony

orchestra example of how this all works.

Maybe you can tell us that story.

Gary: Yeah, well, the story of the symphony is...

they were a fabulous symphony, but they'd had terrible problems

around our struggles around money and a number

of other things as well.

They had gone on strike, and when they called us in,

they were about to have to negotiate a new contract.

And they realized, both sides realized, if they did not

negotiate a new contract and they went on strike, it

would probably be the end of the symphony.

So there's a lot at stake for them.

What we did was we actually took the players

and we worked with the players and we worked

with the board and we worked with management and

we taught them the skills by having them do

simulations that didn't have anything to do with symphonies,

other kinds of labor situations.

And so they learned the skills of looping,

going underneath the problem, thinking, brainstorming, all kinds,

a whole different way of thinking about conflict.

And by the time we finished the training of all

of them, the actual mediation itself was a piece of

cake because they really understood how to do it.

I mean, one of the goals I have as

a mediator is to put myself out of business.

So if people really have learned how to

work together, when future problems come up, they'll

be able to do it themselves.

That's the fond hope.

Duane: That's fantastic, Gary.

What a noble ideal there.

That's just brilliant.

Gary: Well, it certainly beats war.

And that model impacts the way people

think and it takes so much anonymous.

And of course, we're at a point in the planet's evolution

where we see the price paid every day higher and higher

in more and more dangerous world we live in.

And the stakes are so high that if we continue

to use that model of coercion and us against them

and right and wrong as the total framework for everything,

it's going to be really hard for us to pull

together to be able to save this planet.

Duane: In the Baha'i advocacy that's kind of currently taking

shape, one of the big ideas that is coming

through is this idea that to get antagonistic groups

closer together, you find a greater purpose that they

can agree on and collaborate together around.

Do you have any thoughts on how that might work or

how that works in the context of what you've been doing?

Gary: Yeah, well, that's actually a book I'm writing now.

Duane: Fantastic.

Gary: How regular people can use this because this does

not have to be highly sophisticated, well-trained people,

but these are kind of basic human principles.

One of the problems, and we had this with the

symphony, is we had groups, and within the groups where

people see things similarly, they also see things differently.

So there can be conflict within a group.

And so that's a problem.

For example, with the symphony, there were a

number of people that played stringed instruments, they were

suffering repetitive injuries, and that's because so much

of the repertoire was relying on stringed instruments.

So they wanted what we called string relief.

And so, of course, they weren't the dominant part

of the group, so the group wasn't about to

get behind that in the previous negotiation.

And of course, in the previous negotiation, the reason it

had failed is then the players came to the table.

They're representatives of the players with management, and

the management said, what are your issues?

And they had 36 issues.

They said, what's the order of priority?

The order of priority is they're all the same.

They're all of the highest priority.

Well that doomed it right there.

So what we had to do was work with the

players for them to identify what are the priorities.

And string relief became one of the things that

other people in the orchestra realized it was a

good thing for them to support, even though it

wasn't going to affect them directly.

So by the time that we got through that, there were

really four big issues, and so it was going to be

much easier to solve four issues ...

Duane: In Amanda's book, again, one of the things that's very colorful

is your own story with your engagement with

running for office for the local council.

Yeah, I mean, what I love about the story is, again,

that idea of coherence how hard it is for us to

practice what we believe, if you will, and maybe you could

tell us a little bit about that story.

What happened and what did it teach you?

Gary: Yeah, I love it that I was really

worried about this story going public because it

was a colossal failure on my part.

And so I realized so many people were so appreciative of

what I'd done and what my talents were as a mediator

that they didn't see me as a human being.

And so this story helped me

land on Earth where I belong.

And so it was a very hard fall because I

got very excited about. We had problems in the community.

People said, we need somebody to run the meetings.

I said, I know how to run meetings

where there's conflict and they said great.

So they elected me in a landslide.

And then this was to the local, just our

local, 250 houses right on the ocean in California.

And my idea was, let's

get the whole community involved.

And so all the people that voted

for me come to the meetings.

It's your community.

And of course, one of the great surprises, two

surprises neither of them should have been. One was

they didn't come because they thought they'd elected me.

I would do that.

And secondly, the people that were against me, they

came to every meeting and they just started taking

potshots at me right off the bat.

Well, as a mediator, I was

used to really heavy conflicts.

Horrible things would happen in the room, but it was

never aimed at me, and this was aimed at me.

And as the me, what came back into

my life was the old trial lawyer.

I knew how to defend and attack, and before

I knew it, I was off and running.

And everything I believed in about how

people should be with each other, I

was contradicting from moment to moment.

And it was terrible experience because I was defensive.

And I wouldn't say drunk with power, but kind

of I loved the idea of having power.

I kind of hadn't had it. As a mediator.

I give it away, so I'm happy.

But this was kind of intoxicating.

We can make real change.

And of course, that was seeds of destruction right

there and created a WE / THEM relationship between me

and the people that were against me.

And so I went through a really horrible period where

my wife said to me she'd come to the meetings

with the dog and then leave after a while.

And at one point she said to me,

'you know, I don't even recognize you.

This is not the person that I've been

with for the last 40 some OD years.

This is some old version of you.'

And so I really took that to heart because I

knew that she was right and she always is right.

And so I went through a period of deep soul searching.

I've had a meditation practice for decades.

I thought hought this would help me.

But I would just sit there and suffering

and not be able to get bottom of

it and living with this day and night.

And of course, I wasn't getting paid

a penny to do any of this.

So it was like, why am I ruining my life this way?

And people in the community would look the other

way when I pass them on the street.

These are my neighbors, so what could be worse?

And so I realized I had to do something about that.

And when I got to the bottom of it,

I realized I had just gotten caught up in

all the stuff I help other people unhook from,

and I needed to do something to change that.

And so over time, I did.

But first, if I had to confess what

had happened, and it was really hurtful to

me, and I had to feel my vulnerability.

Duane: I love the story because it brings out the challenge.

None of this is easy.

It's clearest when you see the

contradictions in our own actions.

Gary: Often the mediators that I trained were

very upset when this story came out. I said what?

How could you do this?

Have these conferences that they'd invite me

and say, let's talk about your failure. I talk about.

And they said, 'Why'd you do this?

Why didn't you do that?'

'I should have. I could have. I would have. I didn't.

And so I'm just like you.

I'm no better than you.'

Duane: What do you think this tells us?

I mean, your story and everything else that you've

been talking about about kind of like the qualities

and the challenge for the mediator in this process.

Gary: Yeah, the challenge is we often think we know better

what people should do with their lives than they do.

And people ask us what to do because they want us

to tell them what to do, although they may really not.

Maybe they do, because then they'll be able

to blame us when things go wrong.

We like to tell people what to do

because then we think we're doing something valuable.

And so that whole thing has got to flip.

And that's really the challenge, is to

really believe at the deepest level.

And it's a wisdom.

Which is I don't know.

There's a Buddhist saying which is

not knowing is most intimate.

Not knowing and greeting the world with the stance

of I don't know how I can help you.

I know I really want to, but I need

you to be able to help me help you.

That's the biggest challenge. Can we do that?

Can we live that?

And the more successful we are, the more important it

is that we realize how little we really know.

And I'm almost 80 now, and I realize I know

a lot less than I knew 30 years ago.

Duane: So it's a certain demand for humility, would you say?


That IS the quality.

I think that's the most essential quality for anybody.

I mean, just think about this.

Human beings with these really dark, heavy conflicts.

Who do we think we are that

we know how to really help them?

I mean, it really takes an incredible amount of

guts, but also a kind of hubris that I

think we have to realize we don't know.

But that doesn't mean there's nothing to do.

There's lots we can do. Lots we can do.

And that's the stuff that people need to learn.

Duane: I think the challenge, as you're articulating this is that

the type of person who is drawn to doing this

has probably a little bit of a savior complex.

They want to help people, and it feels good.

It feels good helping people. Right.

I mean, that's a large part

of what people find fulfilling.

And so in that quest to be the

person who's helping, it's hard to find that

humility of letting people own the problem themselves.

Gary: Well, I have this conversation regularly with my wife,

who's a great helper, and I accuse her, like,

helping the little old lady cross the street, only

the lady didn't want to cross the street.

So I'm going to give you the help I think you need.

It's easy to just kind of guess at what that is.

But when we guess, we're often

wrong because we really don't know.

And not realizing how much we depend on people to

be able to kind of find their own truth.

And that's harder.

We have to live with their confusion, their pain,

how they change their minds, how indecisive they are,

how confused they are, how much suffering they experience.

And our job is to be there with

them in their suffering and to accompany them.

That's what compassion really is.

Duane: That's beautiful, this principle of accompaniment.

Gary: Yeah. And it means we're at a

horizontal relationship, not a vertical relationship.

Beautiful horizontal relationship.

We have to realize we're in

the soup, we're trying to help.

Duane: That's fantastic.

So, you know, as we've discussed briefly, Gary

Baha'i communities all over the world will be

working over the course of the next 25

years trying to bring antagonistic groups together.

What advice would you have?

This is grassroots, very grassroots.

Not lawyers, not mediating professionals per se.

Grassroots community organizations.

What advice would you have for Baha'i communities

worldwide in terms of how to best work

to bring antagonistic groups closer together?

Gary: You mean for me to tell them what to do?

Duane: Touche. Gary: Right.

So I wouldn't presume to tell them what to

do, but I can suggest that there are a

number of things that I think would be useful.

I think the first thing is to realize that

when you're trying to help people, to think you're

doing it for altruistic reasons is self deception.

There has to be something in it for you if

you want to be able to help other people, that

otherwise you'll burn out and you'll be very dissatisfied.

So that's first.

And I think when you realize that it really

is something in you, you're doing this for it's.

Often we all have ways in which

we've been hurt and we've suffered.

And in fact, where the juice comes from to help

people is that stuff that's been hanging around for 1020,

40, 60 years in us that we're trying to heal.

And so feeling that helps us be in

relationship to the people and realizing that every

time we help somebody with their.

Own wound.

It's a little bit a healing of our own wounds.

And so we have this very intimate

relationship with what they're going through and

it's corollary and what we're going through.

It's not like we talk about these things from people,

but we need to feel that we need to really

get our motivations and our motivations there are motivations to

want to do this and they're really important and they're

also motivations to not want to do this.

And those are also really important and we have

to listen to the motivations to not do this.

I'm in the line of good ones.

And so you have to decide, is this the right time?

Are these the right people?

Am I in the right place in my life

to want to be doing this with other people?

And if there's more reasons to do it than

reasons not to do it, then we can begin.

But that's the whole thing.

And are the people that we're working with,

do they have motivations to do this?

And I think every one of us deep inside has that.

We may not be conscious of that, but it's there.

And it's there to be tapped.

And so oftentimes, I'll think, in the

face of impossibility, what's the possibility?

And can we feed that little possibility and

have that grow into something that's bigger and

work from that place of more and more

possibility until it grows and it matures and

becomes something people can really work from?

Groups have their own life.

And one of the things I just heard

this and I'm just still noodling about this.

This is really an important idea.

It's either a really dumb idea

or it's an important idea. People stay.

It's about finding people like you

that really is important to people.

And of course, if that's true and the world

depends on us only being with people that are

like us, it's going to be very hard for

us to pull anything off in terms of transformation.

But there's this other way of looking at

it which is do people like you?

And is there ways in which we can like people and

be liked by people that are really people that we disagree?

You know, my son is a filmmaker and he's just

done filming of this really remarkable conference in Texas where

billionaires are there who are very much, very conservative, but

they really believe that we need to do something about

climate change and they feel dismissed.

When people know I don't believe you,

they put them in that box.

And so we have to find ways

of not holding people to the pictures

that we have of them, especially politically.

And the media feeds all this.

And so it makes it really, really hard to not

just turn everything into good and bad and right and

wrong and this is how it is and oversimplify.

So we have to really enter into the complexity of

a problem and feel it and live with the complexity

of it and understand that and go for that and

realize that from that we can create understanding.

If we're not caught in the pictures that we carry

around of people just by the way they look or

something they've said or some political stance that they've taken.

And that's a lot more work.

And it means we have to I don't know, we

have to do about media, but we have to not

let ourselves get sucked in to the pictures that we're

fed and bombarded with every day about this is right,

this is wrong, this is what's happening and resisting that.

So can a group support each other to do that? Yes.

And one of the things if you're talking about, I

don't know, your healing group, if you have a healing

group that wants to work together, we have a thing.

In my last book, we called Inside Out: How

Conflict Professionals Can Use Self Reflection to Help Others.

We have what we call a buddy system.

And this is really the key because what's happening

inside us is really important for us to be

able to recognize and how that impacts how we

work with people on the outside.

So understanding how we work with people

on the inside is challenging because everything

reinforces just look at the outside.

And so looking at the inside and working

with that, learning to work with that.

What we have is we call a buddy system.

So if you have, I don't know how many people

you're talking about, 1150, you can still have people go

into pairs and teach them how to have what we

call buddy conversations, where they learn the skills of looping

and they also learn the skills of speaking from their

hearts about what's happening inside them.

And they support each other to do that,

to deepen their understanding of themselves and what

they're going through and sustaining that.

And that's the key, is can you sustain this over

long enough a period of time to make a difference?

It's easy to just kind of

get excited by the beginnings.

What's hard is hanging in there for when it gets tough

and they hang it in there for when it gets tough.

That's when you need the buddies.

Also, it's important to have, I

think, a self reflection practice.

So we have in the self reflection book, the Inside

Out book, nine different practices that we suggest people follow

to be able to strengthen the muscle of self reflection

and be able to use it in action.

It's not like you just do that.

I remember my father was so unhappy with

me when I left practicing law with him.

He came out, visited me, and I took him

to the local Zen center and he said, what

are these people just doing sitting on pillows?

Don't they know that the world is burning?

And he just didn't see that there could be any value.

And then when I was asked and he thought

the mediation I was doing, he said, that's all

bullshit, and real lawyers are trial lawyers.

So we loved each other, my father and I.

So he was 80 at the time.

And I said, 'I've been invited by Harvard to teach.'

And he said, 'Why would Harvard ask you to come teach?'

So he came to a program, a

five day, 40 hours program at Harvard.

Fell asleep some of the time, went through it, but

the end, he said, 'yeah, I'm a mediator now.'

Of course, he wasn't.

It's finding a way to have love enter

our hearts and connect us, no matter what

our ideological or beliefs.

Duane: You talked earlier about motivation.

Of course, if you're going to empower people to solve their

own problems, so to speak, you kind of need a certain

motivation to be at the table for that to happen.

Gary: Exactly.

Duane: But what do you do if you have

a party that doesn't have that motivation?

Gary: It's a non starter. You wait.

Maybe things have to get worse, but

the question is, do they have it?

I think almost everybody has it.

It's often buried.

They may not be aware of it, but

giving them the choice is really important.

And to be able to say, 'if you do not want

to do this, I will support you to say no.'

Because unless people have a no, they don't have a yes.

So if it's really a no, then you're dragging them

along in a process, and that's way too hard to

do, and it's kind of a violation of them.

I mean, it's first principle.

Respect the party's autonomy and their

right to make their own decisions.

And if they're saying, 'No, I'm not going to do

this', then we say, 'I'm here for you if you

ever reach the point where you want to.'

And then you're working with people who have

intention, and that's the present expression of motivations.

But sometimes the motivation is

the alternative is even worse.

So this is kind of horrible to think about

dealing with this person, but when I see the

alternative, wow, that looks like it's really bad.

So maybe that's all we have, but that's enough to start,

and then can we develop it as we work together?

Duane: You spoke earlier about this idea of

being in the face of impossibility.

What happens when you reach that point?

You're in this mediation, you're working and you

look at something and it just feels impossible.

How do you find the possible at that moment?

Gary: Yeah. Well, first of all, I think the most important thing

is you have to open your heart to the people.

And so when you open your heart and you feel

like there is a beating human heart that they have,

and that their aspirations they have as humans.

And they seem to be buried now.

They seem to be not accessible,

and it seems to be impossible.

We know that all it takes is for

them to want to change that, to be

able to make some headway with changing that.

So I always feel that possibility, and as long as

I hold out that possibility and invite them to find

that in themselves, I've always got something to work with.

So I never kick anybody out of mediation.

I mean, if there's violence, that's it.

Or if they're drunk or drunk or something.

But assuming they're there in more or less right

minds, if they're there, I assume that they're there.

And if they've come to a meeting and

that looks like it's impossible, you have to

remember they've come to the meeting.

There was some reason that they

came to the meeting now.

Maybe it was because they thought in the presence

of a neutral, they could bash the other person

and get their way and all of that.

But there might be something else there

too, and we're always looking for that.

And when it works, it's beautiful.

And when it doesn't work, sometimes

that can be beautiful too.

To be able to say for one person to be able

to say to the other, you have really done damage to

me, and I do not want to work with you.

I'm not going to put up a bit anymore.

So, no, I don't want to work this out.

And I consider that a success because it's a step

forward for them in terms of their own lives.

Duane: Now, Gary, your center for Understanding and Conflict

provides training for a number of different courses.

Is that something that's limited to lawyers, or

is it for people of all walks?

Gary: No, it started with lawyers.

We used to be the Center for Mediation and Law.

We changed it for the center for Understanding and Conflict

because we started to see what we were really teaching

was a different way of relating to conflict.

So it's for anybody who feels like they

want to develop skills to work with people

in conflict, and it's become much broader.

And we're now interested... In this book I'm writing,

I'm interested in kind of putting together the steps for

people, even without a mediator, to be able to kind

of follow that they can go through conflict with somebody

else or have discussions where they really diverge.

And we're training teachers.

So how would listeners go about signing

up for a course, for example?

If they're interested, they just go on our website.

Understanding in conflict - all one word - dot org. Duane: Understanding in conflict.org.

All one word.


So, Gary, tell us a little bit more

about this new book that you're working on.

It sounds really exciting.

Gary: Yeah, well, the idea is exciting.

I'm still in the throes.

I'm actually looking for situations where people who are in

conflict are willing to have me coach one of the

people, and then they will talk to the other person,

record that, and then bring it back to me.

And I want to use those because books are

only juicy if they've got examples and so on.

These are not mediations, but it's really

about the steps that you can take.

Anybody can take with anybody, whether it's your

in laws or your neighbors or your friends

or people that you're warring with.

The process is different because of the content, but

it's the same in terms of these steps.

And what I'm looking for is something that's not

going to be just like a formula, but that's

genuine, that you can do with other people who

are actually interested in doing that with you.

Duane: How does it differ?

I'm assuming a lot of it is similar to what you've

done so far, but how does making it in this kind

of, like, more self help mode, how does it differ from

what you've been doing in your mediation training?

Gary: Well, in the mediation training, we're teaching

people to be mediators in this.

It's many of the same tools, but

it's about doing it without a mediator.

And in the book, I'm going to be kind of

a coach, so I will listen to what they've done,

carrying it out, and then they'll bring it back, and

then I'll coach them, and hopefully we'll come out of

that as some stuff that people will find useful.

And I'm really kind of a little bit of a

quandary, but kind of excited to try to solve this

problem because so many of these kind of self help

books rely on the author's reporting of the story.

I had this great success.

I've done that myself in my

books, or failure, whatever it was.

But it's our reporting of it.

So this will hopefully get more real because we'll have

recorded the conversation that people had without me, and then

we'll be able to kind of analyze that and figure

out where do they go from here?

So I'm hoping that we'll give people some guideposts

that they wind up well. Duane: We can't wait.

We'll have to get you back on the show once you

come out with the book to tell us the story. Gary: Yes. Right.

Hope it will all happen

befor I'm dead.

So working at a snail's pace,

but feels like I'm making progress.

Duane: Gary, you're a legend.

Thank you so much for taking

time to share with us today.

So many great insights.

Really keep up the good work.

Gary: Well, you keep up your good work.

I'm so excited.

Thinking about a 25 year commitment.

It's no small deal.

It's kind of like we're in it for the long haul,

and I think it's enough of a period of time.

If you're young enough, you think, well, I think

I might still be around then, and I'm hoping

the planet will still be around for me.

But I admire the choice to say, okay, we're going to

do something about this as a collective group, because as a

collective, you really have a power that individuals don't have, and

that's kind of what this is all about. Isn't it?

Duane: It's so exciting.

It's so exciting to imagine the possibilities of

how this will all unfold and evolve over

the course of that 25 year window.

You're absolutely right.

Well, we have learned so much today.

Gary, thank you so much for

joining us on Society Builders.

Gary: Well, good luck, Duane. And it was great talking.

Duane: Well, that's it for our show today.

Make sure you join us again next time when

I interview Rabbi Roly Matalon, who will share with

us some truly, deeply moving stories about how he

and his congregation tackle this whole polarization challenge.

It's an interview you won't want to miss. That's.

Next time on Society Builders.

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