I came across this funny video on YouTube. It strangely reminded me of a divorce mediation I conducted.
The caption read, “N’Gos tlhogh cha! A simple procedure… This would save millions in attorney fees.” The mediation of which I am referring involved a couple that simply had to get out their emotions and frustrations before they could settle anything. I remember after a long period of haggling over what seemed to be trivial issues, the wife stood up and said, “I hate you and never want to see you again.” She then quickly settled on all issues over which they had been haggling for months. She didn’t care so much about the settlement as much as she cared about making sure he knew that she was finished with him.
Now I am not recommending that we move our divorces into violent Klingon style combat. However, I am suggesting that the simple expression of the hurt and anger can sometimes be important. I am a big believer that mediators and conflict managers such as myself cannot be afraid of conflict. We have to be able to embrace it, understand it, and work within it.
So many attorneys become mediators because they can’t handle conflict. They believe that moving into alternate dispute resolution will protect them from conflict. However, this thinking is wrong. Models like collaborative divorce or mediation, while going a long way to manage conflict, do not eliminate it. To be successful in such models, the professionals need to have the stomach for the raw emotions of hurt and anger to be expressed. Otherwise, they will invariably fail as conflict managers. It’s like a surgeon who faints at the sight of blood.
For me, the joy of conflict resolution comes largely from my ability to roll up my sleeves and get knee deep into the “muck” of emotions and humanity that is so present in divorce cases. It’s not that I enjoy the pain people are feeling. Rather, I enjoy the sheer humanity of it all. It is so rewarding to work with people in pain work through their conflict and come out better on the other side.