FOOTNOTE 1: Mediator Comments on Options

Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Is there anything else that you try to do in the initial meeting besides finding out what their view of the issue is?

Answer:
To some extent, I am already trying to lay the ground work for potential mediation. Now of course, the majority of the cases do not end up going to mediation! But let me give you an example. This could be any community. I go into the minority community and let's say that they are concerned about a racist school superintendent. So I will go in and say, "What's the problem?" They say, "We've got a racist superintendent." "What do you want to do?" I'll ask. "We want to get rid of him." That is their number one demand, get rid of the superintendent. So I go on. "Okay. So if you get rid of the superintendent, then what?" "Well," they say, "we will get a superintendent who isn't racist." "Fine," I reply, "but who hired the superintendent?" "The school board." "Okay. Who is going to hire the next superintendent?" "The school board." Now we're getting deeper into the issue. "Well, how can you be sure that you are not going to get another racist?" "We'll tell them that we don't want a racist." "But how do you know that he is not a racist?" I'll ask. "What are the kinds of things that this superintendent is doing that let you know that he or she is racist? What are you going to tell the board that will convince them so that they will not hire another racist?" "Okay," they'll say, changing their approach a bit, "we'll say we need somebody who hires more minority staff." Okay. Now we've gotten somewhere. So then I start writing on my flip chart if there is one. "Okay, so part of the problem is the hiring policies here," I'll say. "What else?" "Well, look at the discipline here. They are expelling and suspending far more minority kids than white kids." "Okay, so the discipline problem is an issue." I continue writing on the chart. By having that kind of discussion I am now helping the community to focus not on the individual, but on the existing policies that need to be changed. Because the reality is that even if they get a different superintendent, if he or she does the exact same thing as the one they have now, they haven't gotten anywhere. On the other hand, if the current superintendent can be persuaded to do things differently, the problems could be resolved. Now, of course, I'm not at that point yet with the group. But if the superintendent would change some behaviors if he would do certain things differently then he wouldn't be seen as a racist that needs to be replaced. Yet initially, the only option that the community sees is, "Get rid of the racist bastard and get somebody better." So when you start taking about what somebody better would look like and what the differences would be, we now begin to get some issues that I can then take to the superintendent. I can't just go and say, "They think you're a racist," because, obviously, the superintendent is not going to agree that he is a racist in most cases. But often, after some conversation, the superintendent does agree that his job would be easier if he had a better relationship with the community. And even though this is just a small, minute trouble-making part of the community it always is [in the superintendent's view] he begins to realize that his job would be easier if his relationship with them was better. So if I can show him that I can maybe improve relations with that community, and he is willing to talk about some of the hiring policies and the disciplining procedures, then I have something I can work with. If we can talk about those issues, rather than whether or not he is a racist even though I haven't talked about mediation a whole lot yet I have begun to lay the groundwork for identifying what some of the actual interests are. This shows that the frustration isn't so much the one person as it is with what's happening to the children of that community. And by helping them to define that, I am also helping them to address it.

Edward Howden


Question:
When you thought of solutions and you didn't see them going that direction did you raise them?

Answer:
Oh I might ask a lot of questions. What's one of the useful concepts, of course, is a reality check. I would use that often, or occasionally at least, in preparatory sessions when a given group, usually the minority agency group or minority community group was shaping up its demands in anticipation of a mediation session. There would often be one demand to fire the police chief, or fire the supervisor of welfare, for example. We had one case that involved a social welfare department in a rural county where such a demand, along with eight or ten other demands, came up, and that took a little doing to deal with. You try to ask how important is that demand in relation to the other eight or ten. In the case I'm thinking of, there were ten or fifteen points on the agenda that were shaped up in the course of a couple of long get-ready sessions. An attorney from one of the public rural assistance outfits helped articulate those concerns and put them in shape, which was very helpful. In that case you try to counsel people and ask, "is this demand within the realm of possibility?" This county supervisor of welfare had been in that job many years, and undoubtedly had high status in the county establishment. Yet the group was unwilling to abandon the demand that he be fired. But we managed to get them to put it at the end of the list of fifteen or so. That leads to another interesting point which applied in this case. Do you submit the demands in writing in advance of the mediation session? I tended to favor not doing so for the rather obvious reason, well for a couple of reasons. One, a demand like that was going to blow it. But even apart from that, if you formalize it all in writing and submit it in advance, you're sort of making it like a legal court process. My second reason for preferring not to have demands submitted in advance of the first joint session is that it formalizes it and gets the other party in a more adversarial stance and lets them prepare to come back with rebuttals, and counter- arguments. I'd rather have that as a spontaneous process. They may come back and object like crazy. But if it's in a mediation process where we're tying to establish some relationships and where I can facilitate it or function as moderator, we've got a better chance of getting something done. In this particular case I was referring to, with the proposed firing of the welfare superintendent, the superintendent was present at the mediation, as well as a key county administrative officer. The group of six or seven Chicano agricultural workers and community people who had brought their complaints about the behavior of the welfare department were also there. We got through the first three or four points on the agenda and we were making reasonable progress when the county administrator leaned over to me and asked if anybody could call a recess and have a caucus anytime they wanted to. I said, "of course," and he called for a recess and asked for his team to see the mediator. So we sat down together, or maybe he just spoke to me privately. His message was that the superintendent had finished reading all the way down the list and had come to the end of the line that said, "fire said superintendent." This guy was very helpful in this whole deal. He said, "This is going to blow it, she's going to walk out and it won't go." What I then did was caucus with the other group and say, "Hey we got a problem." I guess they were willing to set that aside, at least tentatively, and see how we could do on the rest of the stuff. So we resumed. By two or three o'clock that day we wound it up. I went back to the motel room and spent half the night writing the agreement up, which is one of the functions I did frequently. The next day it got signed, we had a deal. So reality checks attempted in advance don't always do it.



Nancy Ferrell


Question:
So what do you do if the person says, "We want to fire the superintendent?"

Answer:
That's not our role. We'll look at that the problems your having with the school district, why you think the superintendent needs to be fired, but the decision about whether of not the superintendent keeps his job is the board’s decision.

Question:
So do you try to get them to define more exactly what the problems are and then try to propose some other solutions?

Answer:
Right. "What is going on that makes you believe firing the superintendent is going to change anything?" "Well, because none of our school kids can ever sing in the school choir. Not one of our children have ever been invited to sing in the school choir." And that's just one part of that coaching stuff. "Firing the superintendent is not something we can deal with. Let's talk about where your concerns are." "My daughter was valedictorian and it was taken away from her, and the superintendent didn't support us." Now you have a specific issue. You can go back and start looking at how that decision was made.



Dick Salem


Question:
Who decides what they need, do you or do they?

Answer:
We always start with what the group says it needs. It would be nice to sit here and say they tell us and we respond, but the reality is when you do enough of these for enough years you can sort of pretty well see what’s needed and what’s happening and you can lead the community group into knowing what it needs very often. One simple thing is helping a group understand it needs a good agenda if is going into negotiations, with or without a mediator. That grievances should be presented in a way that they can be responded to. If the agenda is fire the school superintendent, or fire the police chief, you know that's not likely to be achievable. You encourage them to shape an agenda that puts that at the bottom and started with some of the substantive changes they want to see. So you put the achievable at the other at the top of the agenda and push "fire the police chief” to the bottom. When they make enough progress at the top and middle of the agenda, they realize that you don’t have to fire the police chief, if he’ll abide by what you’ve agreed to up above on the agenda. So that’s empowering, helping the group understand the negotiation process. And you’re leading the group that way, certainly. You’re saying, "I know what’s best for this group in this negotiation.” I’ve never seen a group when we suggest resources that are available that wouldn’t be eager to accept them, if they were serious about resolving problems. Sometimes it was a consultant we identified who could help them, someone who had resolved a similar problem in another community, or an expert in policing or schools. We could pay plane fare and honorarium. "We’ll pay this guy’s plane fare to come over to talk to you and sit down with you.” In one case, I brought three Hispanic parents from Chicago into Washington DC to meet with the Civil Rights Division (CRD) during Chicago’s school desegregation suit. There they had a chance to meet with the attorneys who were working with the city and putting a plan together. So they felt they had their voices heard in Washington. That is providing technical assistance -- knowing that’s what the group wanted in that case. It was hard to tell whether anyone was listening, but the community members felt they had their voices heard. Now that’s another way of building credibility for ourselves. Before that, trust levels were really low. There was at a big public meeting and CRD had asked me to go; the US attorney had asked me to go. Nobody else in the Justice Department wanted to go near it. So what I brought to that public meeting was the idea that we would pay the fares for three people in your group to go to Washington to talk to the Civil Rights Division and be sure their voices were heard. There was so much skepticism that somebody raised their hand from the audience and asked, "Are you going to pay our plane fare back too?”



Martin Walsh


Question:
How about situations where a party is proposing an agenda that includes something that you view as a possibly intractable issue. How do you address a party relating to that?

Answer:
Often times it comes up in the initial discussion. "We want to fire the police chief." "We want the superintendent fired."

Question:
How do you deal with that?

Answer:
I try to finesse it in different ways by saying, for example, "If we are going to be dealing with the police chief," or the mayor or supervisor, or whoever it is, "let's deal with these issues and the issue of whether the police chief is going to stay or not will be up to the administrator. In the meantime, he is the chief. Do you want to deal with these problems or do you want to wait until someone makes a decision?" Other times I say, "What's the reality of this? There appears to be a lot of support for the chief from the city council. How feasible is this?" I think most of the time community leaders are astute enough. It will be on the agenda, but after that it is the mediator's job to get to the next step. The message is out there. The mayor might say, "Chief John has done a good job over the years?" There is a conversation about it and they get it. It's not one of those things that is usually going to end up as something that is going to be negotiated.

Question:
And on the other hand if one party says "That's non-negotiable, I refuse to discuss it?

Answer:
What I try to do is to get it where it doesn't become an intractable issue. "You can get your message across. You have already said this. You can use a different forum for it, but in the meantime if we are going to go forward and make any progress on these issues, are you willing to let that impair us?" Usually they make decisions to pull back or get the message out. I think everything can be discussed. They want it out there, but I must say that I have yet to have any mediation situation where it just stopped everything. Clarifying it, getting people to talk about it beforehand, realizing the environment, giving a reality check and doing all the things related to it help to finesse it one way or the other.


FOOTNOTE 2: Mediator Comments on Deciding Who Should Participate in Mediation

Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Was representation ever an issue? Who was going to be at the table and who wasn't?

Answer:
Clearly, we had to work the ethnicity out of it first, then the stature of the organization, how long they'd been in existence, because they were non-profit and volunteer groups. We were also interested in the type of leadership that they brought to the table.

Question:
You just said something very interesting, "You had to work the ethnicity out of it." How do you do that?

Answer:
Very carefully. First of all, by trying to bring equity to the table in terms of numbers -- numbers of the organizations. And one of the things that happened here and it happened in other cities, is bringing back to the table individuals who did not currently have a title with the organization, but had held a title before and were highly respected. We asked them to come to the table and be sort of senior, elder spokespeople and bring unity, and that worked very well.

Question:
Did you try to get equal numbers of each race, or did you try to do something proportionately?

Answer:
I think proportionate to the organizations who actually signed to be members of the coalition.

Question:
And this was open to anybody who wanted to be included?

Answer:
Correct.

Manuel Salinas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Answer:
Well once the chief of police identified a few people, and we met with those few, they formed a group. Then we knew who was taking a leadership role there. There were a couple of people who took on a leadership role. There was a mixed group, women as well as men, and young people as well as older people. So that formed el Comite. It was about nineteen to twenty people total.


FOOTNOTE 3: Mediator Comments on Options

Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

You're giving people an opportunity to rise to a higher level and when they see that and they trust that you can take them there, most of the time people will go with you. Now here's the thing that I was beginning to sense the last 3 or 4 years I was doing this work with Justice. Of the people who did not want to rise to that -- or as I just described it, didn't want to come to the table in good faith, there were two different profiles. One was coming from the establishment perspective, saying, "My influence is going to be diminished if this process is put in place because when a broader base of people is in power then individual power is diminished,” if it's an authoritarian kind of power. So, those people are intimidated and threatened by what we do. There were minority people whose power was based in the fight, and if the group begins to rise to a higher level with everyone really working toward the best interest of everyone else, those individual powers will be diminished and they would try to sever ties. So, that became an interesting phenomenon to me in the last 3 or 4 years, seeing that as more and more mediation or conflict resolution or consensus-building or multi-culturalism became a part of the fiber. These individuals began to say, "I'm losing control, I'm losing influence, I'm losing power," and there began to be a push to keep the thing from working. My response to that was usually to go with the group, whatever group they were a part of, and talk about that in private and say without naming any names that there seems to be some sabotage going on. "Can you help with that? Are you interested in helping with that? Because either that person's going to pull the group away or the group will have to move away from that person.” But, I never tried to engage those people. I would try to bring them to the table, I tried to get them in the midst of it and hold them to their higher words.

Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Was there ever a time where none of the major parties wanted you to become involved?

Answer:
A lot of times. Yes. Generally, it was the so-called majority. Because the majority community, school as an example, or a law enforcement agency, they're in control, they have the resources, and they have a goal. They see the disputes as something they can handle, even though in a lot of cases we eventually find out that they haven't been handling it for a long time. But in their minds, they think that they've been handling it and they've been handling it correctly. And as long as they have that attitude, they don't allow anyone else to come in. The other is the aura that exists in many of these groups, but particularly for public agencies that would deal with the idea that an outsider is coming in without them first identifying the outsider and paying for those services. It's just not existent in their day to day work, but in the way that they work and the way that they think. So we have to work our way in, really wiggle our way into a trust level and the fact that we are able to actually help them out.

Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

that's how you tried to figure out what you were going to do when you knew that, clearly, somebody didn't want you around. You tried to determine whether or not you were going to be playing the enemy, or playing the friend. And then a lot of times, some of the foes came around and decide to work with you after all. Often the foes came around. I know in my situation, I had lots of foes who came around because they came to the conclusion that the work you might have been doing at the time was something that they could buy into, or something that they perceived as worth while. You had to let that happen. You couldn't go in forcing yourself on anybody. I don't care who you were with, whether you were with Justice Department, FBI, anybody. People know when you are a phony. Lots of these people out in the field who are fighting for an issue are more sophisticated than you are, or as sophisticated. So you never go in with the idea that since you are a trained mediator, that you're going to be able to snow somebody about your level of expertise or competence or anything else. The key to all of this is being yourself. People will see that, for the most part. And when they do see that, they're more willing to trust you. But when you go in and try to let them think that you have some special knowledge, which you may have, it won't work. They're going to have to conclude that you have that special knowledge on their own. You can't convey the message to them that, "Oh. I'm special." Because all that does is turn them off.

Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

What do you do when you can't break that barrier and someone says they don't want you in this case, or one of the parties says we just don't want to deal with you." Have you had that experience?

Answer:
I think the hardest thing is less that they are verbalizing that they don't want you in and more the other battle where you can see that they don't want you in and they want to put you off. I think that's the more frequent thing. They will say, "We can handle this," or, "It was an isolated incident." The techniques that I always use are that I don't like to allow them to make a decision for us. I don't want to give them the opportunity of "Yes, you can come in," or "No, you can't come in." I try to put it in a way, "Related to this incident, I'm going to be in your community talking to some people and I'd like to meet with you." So basically, it's not, "Well I can refuse you," as much as you don't give them an opportunity to say "No." But then in the meetings with them, often their reluctance level goes up and down the scale. We try to get as much movement as we can from them and that's why I say in some situations we'll get a conciliation approach rather than a mediation approach.

Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Do you ever have access problems getting into a case, the parties don't want you there?

Answer:
Yeah, I've got one I just blew. It wasn't necessarily me, but it was blown. I've gone out to a situation where there was a series of altercations at school. Many of the African- American parents were concerned that the school was not properly reprimanding both racial parties. The school where students had been arrested did seem very biased. Even the incident that provoked the violence had overtones of racial bias for one side over another. So, we went out and heard the complainant side and met with all the parents of the children involved. Then we went and met with the institution, and told them what we felt, that mediation would be a viable way to get through this. The institution absolutely refused because they'd had learned of a pending million dollar suit against them. I said, that doesn't pre-empt mediation. You may have this suit, but there are some things that I think we can still negotiate. The institution said to me, straight out, that they totally distrust the parties, and anything in mediation would not be kept confidential and would be used in discovery for the lawsuit. There would be no way that they were going to participate in mediation. What do you do with that?

Question:
What did you do with it?

Answer:
Well what I did was, I said, "If there is this level of distrust, I'll see you either now or I will see you later. Because regardless of what you do, whether you go to court and win or lose, the problem you have at your school site and the relationship you have with the African-American community is not going to be resolved by the courts, so if you feel that the parties cannot be trusted, we can very well wait until that lawsuit it over. But you know, you're not going to solve the problem until you sit down and get some agreement, as to what and how you properly carry out your policies and processes with all students. Until that's worked out, you're going to have to sit down at the table at some point, sooner or later. It's your call. I can't tell you that you have to sit down now."I thoroughly believe that they can wait out the legal process, but the law does not put the community back together. The law does not give the parties a process to really put to rest the anxiety and issues that divide them. So I figure, I will be there sooner or later.

Manuel Salinas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
If you didn't get the cooperation from the key individual, are you saying that you would back off?

Answer:
Well, I would have to use judgment on that, as to what the community is saying or what's happening. If nothing is happening to a great degree, then I'd back off. If there was a lot happening, and there was a lot of interest and a lot of concern, a lot of hostility, then I would be forced to move forward on another avenue.

Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Can you recall any specific time when one of the parties or neither of the parties wanted you to get involved?

Answer:
Oh that happened a lot.

Question:
And how did you handle that situation?

Answer:
Well, sometimes, you go to the other party and deal with that party and work with them until the other party decides to come around. Sometimes they will eventually come around and say, "Okay, this guy's already working with you on this, and he evidently must be on your side," or something like that. But the only thing you can really do is demonstrate to them, the best you can, that you are basically neutral, as neutral as you can be. And it usually just comes together. Sometimes they'll walk away and say, "We don't want to be bothered with this individual." I don't think there was ever a time where any of us, and I say "us" in this situation, because this is kind of universal, it dealt with everybody, for the most part, we never concened ourselves with people who didn't want us.


FOOTNOTE 4: Mediator Comments on Setting Goals for Mediation

Werner Petterson


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
In your mind are these solutions or suggestions different from goals?

Answer:
Well, early on we tried to set goals. To me it was always like finding a common interest so I guess the common interest then becomes your goal. Finding the solutions to those common goals, that's where you're going to deal with a lot of work. Usually a goal is a common interest or can be understood or agreed to. It's the process of how you get to the common interest which really becomes a problem. In this case it was trying to find a plan that would demonstrate that the schools within the city had been integrated. The solution came from an organization within the community. They came up with a plan for how you could determine whether or not there had been a change in the population and the teaching staff of the school district. So the difference was that it shifted away from the school district and it gave the school district more flexibility instead of having to implement specific plans or specific programs. It gave them flexibility on a school-by-school basis. Students ended up selecting some of the schools, and these became special kinds of schools, like magnet schools. Initially they were fighting sides, we're going to chop the school district up this was and that way. We're going to send these kids from this place over to that place. At that point magnet schools had a good track record. By using this system of determining numbers it was given some flexibility but at the same time the school district would be held to some marker on how they were going to bring change and for some reason that solution was what changed the discussion.

Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Answer:
We don't say, "Figure out what your goals are." Flip that over and say, "Identify what the issues are." And that's the next phase. There was a guy who wanted to know how I got involved in the Justice Department. And I told him, "I'm not the issue." You have to identify the issues. In the meantime, you're developing relationships.

Edward Howden


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
So how did you set your goals, then, once you got on-site and you'd spoken to those parties?

Answer:
Well, I would say the goal simply arose from the nature of the problems that got defined by the respective parties. The basic mission of CRS was to help folks who were in tense, potentially (or actually) confrontational or violent situations with each other, to help them identify their main areas of grievance and difficulty and see whether something could be done to reach a common ground and ease the tensions. The problems automatically dictate the goals. Of course, CRS is concerned with not just trying to paper over the situation, but hopefully enabling the people to address real problems that underlie their difficulties, so that justice can be served on all sides by whatever resolution is reached.

Ozell Sutton


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I also knew how to take advantage of a crisis to move things along.

Question:
How do you? Tell us the steps to take advantage of a crisis.

Answer:
Well, I do it all the time. Not only are you interested in resolving that particular crisis, you are interested in setting forth mechanisms to keep that crisis from re- occurring. And the next thing you are interested in establishing among people who before then had no power, you are interested in establishing in them a sense of power is the wrong word, but a sense of ways that they can protect themselves. In other words, you are empowering them. That's what I'm trying to say. And every time you ought to leave them empowered.

Question:
Yes, so you are strengthening their capacity.

Answer:
Oh yes. To deal with that problem, should it occur next week, or next year, or next ten years, that they aren't totally dependent on you, because you may not be in place. That they too can deal with it.

Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Who decides what they need, do you or do they?

Answer:
We always start with what the group says it needs. It would be nice to sit here and say they tell us and we respond, but the reality is when you do enough of these for enough years you can sort of pretty well see what’s needed and what’s happening and you can lead the community group into knowing what it needs very often. One simple thing is helping a group understand it needs a good agenda if is going into negotiations, with or without a mediator. That grievances should be presented in a way that they can be responded to. If the agenda is fire the school superintendent, or fire the police chief, you know that's not likely to be achievable. You encourage them to shape an agenda that puts that at the bottom and started with some of the substantive changes they want to see. So you put the achievable at the other at the top of the agenda and push "fire the police chief” to the bottom. When they make enough progress at the top and middle of the agenda, they realize that you don’t have to fire the police chief, if he’ll abide by what you’ve agreed to up above on the agenda. So that’s empowering, helping the group understand the negotiation process. And you’re leading the group that way, certainly. You’re saying, "I know what’s best for this group in this negotiation.” I’ve never seen a group when we suggest resources that are available that wouldn’t be eager to accept them, if they were serious about resolving problems. Sometimes it was a consultant we identified who could help them, someone who had resolved a similar problem in another community, or an expert in policing or schools. We could pay plane fare and honorarium. "We’ll pay this guy’s plane fare to come over to talk to you and sit down with you.” In one case, I brought three Hispanic parents from Chicago into Washington DC to meet with the Civil Rights Division (CRD) during Chicago’s school desegregation suit. There they had a chance to meet with the attorneys who were working with the city and putting a plan together. So they felt they had their voices heard in Washington. That is providing technical assistance -- knowing that’s what the group wanted in that case. It was hard to tell whether anyone was listening, but the community members felt they had their voices heard. Now that’s another way of building credibility for ourselves. Before that, trust levels were really low. There was at a big public meeting and CRD had asked me to go; the US attorney had asked me to go. Nobody else in the Justice Department wanted to go near it. So what I brought to that public meeting was the idea that we would pay the fares for three people in your group to go to Washington to talk to the Civil Rights Division and be sure their voices were heard. There was so much skepticism that somebody raised their hand from the audience and asked, "Are you going to pay our plane fare back too?”

Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The other thing, in terms of the regent response, is we always went toward systemic change. Once we responded to any kind of immediate danger, we started looking for systemic response and not just fixing the incident, but looking at the systems that were there and how we needed to deal with those.

 


FOOTNOTE 5: Mediator Comments on Underlying Issues

Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Changing gears, going back to the assessment phase, how do you go about identifying what issues are key? Is this something that you leave to the parties, or is this something that the mediator will play a strong role in doing?

Answer:
Well, it’s politically correct to say you leave it to the parties to define the issues, and in fact you do. But you see things. You’re traveling around, and when you get to Evansville or Xenia or Springfield, you’ve seen the situation in other places and you hear certain things, and all of that directs your questions to certain points. The state of the group, how serious the violations are, what kind of sources of support they have, all these factors tend to alert you. That doesn’t mean that an individual without an organization can’t bring about great change. I mean, I told you about this community worker who wasn’t even from Battle Creek, who was bringing about major change at a small community college but that’s the exception. So during your assessment, you look for certain things: what resources are in the community, how supportive are they? Things that would key in the mediator in doing the assessment, and making it more efficient to determine whether or not mediation or further intervention would have significant results. So yes, the parties would define the issues, but sometimes you would point out other issues that were important to them, that they just hadn’t really thought about in the context of this particular problem. A jail suicide is what they’re complaining about, but there may be underlying issues in police/community relations that led up to this. "Why don’t you believe them when they tell you this was a suicide?” There’s a lack of trust. So what engendered that lack of trust are the issues you may want to look at.

Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
You mentioned at one point that the issues that you thought were the critical issues often turned out not to be. How did you decide what was and what wasn't critical?

Answer:
The parties decided. That was always the surprise. The incident with the school is a good example. As much as it turns your stomach, the kids didn't do any direct harm to anyone with that fraternity party. What came down to be more important to those minority students was the fact that they weren't getting a fair chance at a fair education. If we had only addressed the frat party, we would never have gotten to the real problems that they were having. I had no idea going in and came out knowing that we created an environment for them to feel safe.

Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Let's talk about identifying the issues and the conflict. You said last time you basically talked to everybody and asked them what's going on I imagine that you sometimes get a superficial answer and then there's a need to dig deeper to get more of the underlying issues. How do you go about doing that?

Answer:
Just through questions, discussions, and asking them what is important to them. What is really important. People say we want justice, but doesn't everybody want justice? They said they're engaging in that activity because they want justice. So what I've done several times is kind of turn that around and instead of talking about justice, talk about injustice. So, say there was a police situation with a community. What is unjust that they're doing? Well they used excessive force, that's unjust. They're not hiring enough minorities, that's unjust. They are ticketing us more than others, that's injustice to them. Let's say we have five categories or five issues that define the injustice, so if you take care of all those and you come to an understanding or there's progress made on those five, then they have justice.

Question:
And you do this by asking questions, I gather....?

Answer:
Yes.

 

Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Answer:
We don't say, "Figure out what your goals are." Flip that over and say, "Identify what the issues are." And that's the next phase. There was a guy who wanted to know how I got involved in the Justice Department. And I told him, "I'm not the issue." You have to identify the issues. In the meantime, you're developing relationships.

Question:
The first issue is historical?

Answer:
Well, yes. The first issue is historical. You've got initial hostility between whites and Indians, so you know that goes back to....forever. That's a given -- you put that on the table. The next things you put on the table are the issues of economics, employment, housing, and discrimination, and identify which one of these things caused the problem. With minority communities across the board, even today, you can almost always go back to those issues of deprivation in some way and form. You realize that, so you pull up another issue and the next issue could be Indian treatment in the criminal justice system. In this particular case, was this an act of suicide by this young man or was it brutality on the part of the jailers or the police? That's an issue you've got to identify...

 

Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I went to the business leaders, the chamber of commerce people, and asked, "What is this costing you?" "It's costing a lot of hotel reservations. People that were going to have conventions here have canceled. Fishing is quite popular around there, so some of the fishing tournaments have been canceled. The downtown shops are losing money because that's where some of the Klan rallies have been." It was to their self-interest to get involved, to do something about it. So going back to the self-interest, that conflict is bad business. Racism that causes conflict is bad business. And it's bad for the community business, so what I do is get to the self interest of these different elements. It would be to their self interest to get involved to fix the conflict. It's like say a hand or a body, you smash a finger, well the whole body hurts, not just the finger, the whole body needs to get involved in fixing the finger. In making it better for that one element it makes it better for everybody. Communities work in the same way.

Question:
Can you briefly tell us what the other interests were for the groups besides the businesses?

Answer:
Political leaders want to be elected and they care for the overall community. As for educators, their classes were being canceled, causing disruption in the schools, it's not good business for them, either.

Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Again going back to what you were telling people before you brought them together. You said that you wanted to mediate the university's thoughts on this incident, but did you tell them at that point that you had a broader interest too, or did you bring that in later, or did it just happen naturally?

Answer:
Well again, it was as much a part of our regional interest as my propensity. My propensity was to let that open itself up wherever it went. Generally people will say, that's just the tip of the iceberg. That's just an incident. The real issue is that we're isolated on campus, we don't have any opportunity to serve our student government, we have professors here, and it just comes out. So you either say, "well that's too bad, good luck with that, but we're going to deal with this incident with the fraternity" or you can limit what they say, and just limit the discussions to that. I went into a small community in Texas and I can't even remember what the triggering incident was, probably police use of force, I'd have to look back. When I got there we were in a community center and there were about fifty people there. I said, "Just talk to me. What are your concerns?” Within about an hour, I realized there were people there who were concerned about the school district, the police department, there were four different interest groups, and I just divided them up in the room. Everyone that's most interested concerns in the school district, go in that corner. Everyone that's more interested in police here, city government here, contracting here. And just divided them up and it turned out to be a five-prong community conflict resolution kind of thing. So we were dealing with just about every major system in that city. But I didn't know that when I got there.

Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

So we got them together again and the concerns were bread and butter: "You're beating us up, and you're beating my kids up. You're not giving us a fair chance." That was a concern. But employment..... the police department and the rest of the city, aside from token employment, had no people of color. So that got bigger than just the cops "beating my kid up."



Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

and their concerns were the usual ones. No Mexican American teachers, no coach for their basketball team, they didn't have football. Classrooms were in extremely poor condition. It was one hundred percent Mexican Americans, so you're just concerned with the Mexican American school group. In fact, the school district, the city, was maybe 96% Mexican American, the rest were all white.

 


 

FOOTNOTE 6: Mediator Comments on Evaluating Parties' Goals in Mediation

Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

One of my favorite examples to give parties -- and again, if I do mediation training, I often use this one -- is the one with the girls fighting over the orange: One wants the rind for the cake, the other wants the juice to drink, so it looks like neither one can get the whole orange. Many times you'll hear that example stop there, though. There's more: The girl who got the rind -- if she hadn't gotten the rind, maybe she could have used vanilla flavor or almond flavor or maple flavor. The point is that she didn't actually need the orange; she just needed flavoring. And likewise, the girl who got the juice -- if she didn't get the juice, she could have had milk or apple juice or water or coffee in my case beer but she was really just looking for a beverage. So they fought over the orange, but the orange wasn't necessarily what would best meet their respective needs they just saw it that way. Part of my job, then, is to get the girls to see that the orange is not necessarily the objective; rather, I need to get one girl to recognize that she is looking for flavoring and then investigate all of the various ways that she might obtain that. Similarly, I need to get the other girl to realize that she's really looking for a beverage and explore the possibilities of obtaining that. Eventually, you may get to the point where the orange itself isn't wanted by either of them anymore, but their interests and their needs have been met, and I think that's what differentiates good mediators from outstanding mediators, if you will. It's that ability to help replace the rind with another flavoring and the juice with another beverage, because once the parties can do that, their options are vastly multiplied, because they don't even need the orange anymore. And they pay me to do this -- I love this job. I sort of get on my little soap box and I apologize when I do that but it really is exciting when people in conflict begin to see that there are ways of dealing with their problems that they haven't even explored before. It's pretty exciting.

Question:
I have a theoretical question for you. At the Conflict Consortium, we have been working on a theory of intractable conflicts for a long time. We have said that intractable conflicts generally cannot be mediated (almost by definition) and that identity conflicts, including racial conflicts, are particularly likely to be intractable. So as I was listening to your discussion about the orange, I began to wonder, how do you get people to reframe a conflict from being about race to being about something else?

Answer:
It's what I started talking about early on. You don't talk about race; instead, you ask, "What are the hiring policies?" or, "What are the discipline issues?" You ask, "What does the curriculum look like?" or, "Do you have access to the establishment, to the superintendent?" Because even though the community sees the superintendent as being racist and as being the reason why they can't get what they want, the real issues and I'm not going to say race hasn't influenced what has happened there but the next level or the level at which this needs to be resolved isn't race; it's policies and procedures, and access, and communities, and processes. It's about interaction and communication, both of which were sorely lacking in this case. The race factor just made it more difficult because both sides believed, "Those people are difficult to deal with because of what they have been taught." Race was the orange, but it wasn't the issue. The community could get a person of the same race in that position who didn't change the policies, and that would be more frustrating, because now one can't even blame it on racism anymore. But if they got somebody else who is white, but who changes the policy and is more responsive to the community, that will decrease the perception of racism. And that will diminish the taproot or fuse of inequality and disparity. So even though people see the issue as race, it really isn't race at all. Another example of that is the issue of sovereignty, though I haven't yet been able to get the parties to understand this, and so I haven't been successful in reframing in this area. Sovereignty is a big issue with Native Americans, particularly when it comes to law enforcement on reservations. There is less and less willingness by tribal leadership to allow a non-tribal law enforcement to have any kind of role on the reservation. This also applies in cases of hunting and fishing rights disputes. One of the biggest obstacles to developing some effective collaborative approaches to law enforcement on and near reservations, and to hunting/fishing rights on and near reservations is that both the American Indians and state officials approach it from a perspective of, "Who has the sovereignty? Who has the jurisdiction?" What I try to get across is, "Okay, if you have the jurisdiction, or if you have the sovereignty, what is it you want to do with it? What is it that you want to accomplish?" If I could get them to talk about what effective law enforcement would look like, regardless of who has the jurisdiction and the sovereignty, I really think they could work that out. I totally believe that. But it is such a sensitive issue, it is very difficult to get beyond that. The focus has been on the sovereignty, because it's a symbolic issue as well as a real issue. Symbolic issues are very difficult to surmount. There was one hunting/fishing case that I was called in to, where the state and the tribe had been in negotiations but reached a deadlock. That's when someone called me. They said, "Well, so- and-so says Silke Hansen claims she can do this. Let's call her." "Oh gee, thanks a lot!" I keep telling people, "Why don't you call when you start these negotiations, not when they fall apart?" But I went up anyway, and they showed me what they had done, and I said, "I don't even want to see that." I started putting stuff on the white board. "If you have regulations, what are your objectives? What is it you are trying to accomplish?" And they were like this [she linked her fingers together] they absolutely agreed. So once they agreed on that, it was just a matter of determining what kind of policies each side needed to bring those objectives about. Both sides gave a little, and at the end of a very long day, the people at the table reached an agreement. That's the good news. The bad news is that when it went back to the tribe the tribe didn't buy it, because they said it was encroaching too much on their sovereignty. Another case in the same state ended the same way. It involved a similar kind of negotiation. The parties reached an agreement at the end of the day, but in that case it was the state that blocked the agreement. The negotiators went back to their superiors, who threw out the agreement, again on issues of sovereignty. So there was no agreement. But to me, it proves a point. You have to cut through and disregard the identity issues well, you can't ignore these issues totally because they are there. But the mistake that we usually make in most discussions is that we make racism or sovereignty the issue, and that is not the issue. The issue is, "How can we get past that to provide effective law enforcement?" "How can we get past that to provide good stewardship of our natural resources?" But the history of feeling attacked and encroached-upon and the perception that "they are just trying to whittle away at what we have, piece-by-piece," prevents people from focusing on the real issues. On the other hand, there is the concern that the state "should not give those people special rights and recognition." These feelings are so strong that it is very difficult to come from a different perspective. But I am absolutely convinced if they could just throw out that "orange" and deal with the "flavoring" and the "beverage," there would be much more common ground.

Question:
When you succeed in getting them to do that, what is the long-term result in terms of identity and symbolic issues and race relations? If they can cut through those things to resolve this incident, does it have a long-term effect on other incidents?

Answer:
Well, I think it would if it worked at all, but as I said in the two examples that I gave you, it didn't work. The people at the table were able to reframe the problem, but their superiors were not willing to do that, and the agreements were thrown out for political reasons. It was seen as giving too much or losing too much in terms of sovereignty and jurisdiction and control. So neither agreement held up. I do believe that had it held up, it could have provided a good model, a good precedent for how we can get cooperative agreements on issues like this. In fact, there are other states where there is less mistrust between state and tribe, and where in fact we do have better cooperative relationships. If you could either just not mention "sovereignty" or acknowledge that each of them has sovereignty, and that the two separate governments of two sovereign states are reaching an agreement, I think it would be doable. But there is so much tension and mistrust in this particular setting that it is difficult to make that happen.

Question:
What about other settings though? Such as, for instance, the principal who was accused of being racist, where you were able to reframe it in terms of discipline policy and hiring and that type of thing? Would that have affected the long-term relationship on race relations in the schools?

Answer:
It would, because the potential triggering incidents are less common, so the "bomb" is less likely to go off. Now there is a precedent of communication. There is a mechanism and an expectation that people will address and deal with problems before they get to the point of explosion. So it is the redress side that's handled more effectively. Once there is a precedent for communication, it makes a big difference. Probably one of the most positive examples of that is the same tax day facilitation. There were anywhere from 75 to 100 people in that room and at least as many when I went back for a second meeting. But out of those meetings came a sort of "community board" which included Hispanic and Anglo participants, including law enforcement people. They formed this board and I trained them in three days I gave them three days of basic mediation training. I remember one of the members of the group said, "Gee, you know, Silke, I think this is the first time somebody has come and said, 'I'm from the Federal Government and I'm here to help you,' and then actually done it." I thought that was a huge compliment at the time. That board still exists today, and is still dealing with problems involving the police and community relations. But they also began to look at other sources of tension within the community. This community started out as very mistrustful. There were a lot of accusations about how Hispanics were being treated by the law enforcement system. But now the leader of that system is working with that Hispanic community to deal with education issues in the community purely because people are talking to each other now. And they pay me to do that! It's great!

Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

So one of the things that we did is to start off in very general terms talking about their hopes and priorities and expectations for the community. We would ask them what a fair agreement, in broad terms, would look like to them. As we discussed that, there was the beginning of seeing that there is some agreement here. We may have very different approaches, but there are some common denominators there. We didn't call it "fairness" at that time, but that's really what we were talking about. If we are talking about a fair system, that would include the principles that everyone agrees to. But I really do think that a mediator is going to get into trouble if they try to control whether or not an agreement is fair. On the other hand, I do think that a mediator has some responsibility to not allow a party to negotiate away basic civil rights.

 

Ozell Sutton


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Would you have said that to the white caucus?

Answer:
I made a demonstration with them when I got over there. I said I've been with the Justice Department a long time. I believe like Langston Hughes: "Justice delayed is justice denied." I'm here from a different angle, but you're talking about the same subject. I don't wish that you sacrifice your rights, I don't want anybody to sacrifice their rights. But let's get onto it. Here I go on another sermon, but from a different angle.

Question:
So you reframed the issue for them in the caucus?

Answer:
In words that they could connect to.

Question:
That's an important piece, the use of language as a trust building tool.

 


FOOTNOTE 7: Mediator Comments on Power Relationships in Mediation

Ernest Jones


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
I appreciate the effort. You mentioned something a few minutes ago about leveling the playing field and you can talk more generally now. You don't have to stick with the Olympic case. How did you handle situations or how did you level an unequal playing field?

Answer:
I don't necessarily view that as my role every time. There may be times when I don't consider that to be a significant factor but if I want to try and level it and I think that's something that a mediator should be doing in this particular case, then there's a number of ways you can do that. One of the ways you can do just that is you can communicate nonverbally your support for the person who is on the low end of the playing field. There are a number of little tricks you or things that you can do like the use of body language to send a message that will indicate something to someone. It creates the appearance that I'm on this person's side and I'm here to help them, so you're not just dealing with that guy now your dealing with maybe two.

Question:
For example, non-verbal?

Answer:
Oh, moving physically closer to the person, having eye contact with them but not with the other person. Not that I don't want to look at them, not that I'm afraid to look at them because they are not important enough to look at. Anytime you start doing these body language things, you have to know what the hell you're doing. You have to be able to do this, but you learn to do that. By using pitch and inflection, you know sort of like talking more calmly and rationally and an even tone to the person you're trying to help. More aggressive and louder with the person, you are trying not to help. You know, there are all kinds of things you can do by using body language, and even by using tonality and inflection and those kinds of things. Another thing you can do in terms of leveling the playing field is to do some caucusing. You have to be very careful here that you don't screw up the neutrality of the way you're doing this, but what you do is try and direct the person who hasn't made it up to the level of the field, try to get them thinking in terms of how they can improve their position. You might recommend that they read something or they do something, or that they check into something. You don't tell them to do it, you just say this is something you might want to think about. It's usually best to do that by throwing out something else also, here's another option that you might want to consider. So, you're not telling them here's one thing to consider, you're telling them, here's 2 or 3 things to consider, so that there's options on the table. But you use the caucus period to point that person in the direction that's going to help them. When you caucus with the other side you know you're doing something that's not the exact opposite but what you do is you try to get them to lighten up a little bit. Or you can let them know in a subtle or maybe not so subtle ways that you know what's going on, and as a mediator because you're neutral you may not be able to do anything about it directly but I want you to know that I know kind of thing. The playing field doesn't necessarily have to be completely level, it's just the system, the process works better when it's level, and generally speaking I feel better about what's going on when it's relatively level. When it's relatively level then if somebody hurts themselves in the process, it doesn't bother me as much because they were both about the same level, and if they screwed up, I can't do everything all the time, but it should be a level playing field.

Question:
So you said that when you see a large discrepancy in the power you feel the need to sort of level the field, as level as it can be, that's relatively speaking, but what are those specific things that you're looking for that tells you that this group is not on the same level?

Answer:
Well, I don't know what to say here, as reluctant as I might be to make assumptions, I think you can generally assume a community group that's not really associated with a national organization. They're working at a hindrance when they're dealing with officials who have tax dollars, and all the time in the world because that's their job. The officials have access to data, and very likely although not exclusively, but very likely they are better educated. They just gain common sense, it just kind of tells you that officials are in a better position than our community leaders. Now if you're talking about a NAACP even though that chapter might be unsophisticated. When you're coming out of rural Arkansas, you know, they're not that well educated, they just don't have the sophistication level, because they've never had the opportunity that the mayor, the chief of police and all these people have. But what they do have is their organization, so they can bring in the legal defense plan. Even though that young group there is unsophisticated and may not be at the same level, they have a support mechanism they can bring people that were not on their level of playing field, and bring them up to power.

Question:
So in those cases did you sit back and let the community group access their resources and work with the flow?

Answer:
I may be different than a lot of people, but here is how I view some of the stuff. I take a very clear view that if you're going to raise an issue, then you need to know what you're talking about. If all you have is a high school education and the mayor's got a law degree, that doesn't necessarily make the playing field uneven. But, if you're a community organization or a community group, if you're going to raise an issue then you better have done your homework. My job as a mediator is not to do your homework, or do your work for you. My role is very simple, I'm just here to help you try and figure out what the answer is, I'm not going to come up with the answer, I'm just going to help you figure out how to do it. I expect if people want to raise an issue, then they're prepared to raise it and defend it. So, generally speaking I don't feel a great need to level the playing field. When I feel the need to level the playing field is when clearly I'll just stick with the example of obsidian community organizations. Clearly the city is acting in appropriate ways, that's not my job, my job is not to let that guide me because that takes me out of my usual stance, but I'm not stupid, I can see the writing on the piece of paper.

Question:
QUESTION UNKNOWN

Answer:
Because I know that that's happened and I want to maintain my neutrality. How do I do that? Well, the way I do that is by very indirectly coming to assistance of the community group to bring them up to where the playing field is level. I see that as a role of a mediator. I think we should have as level a playing field as you can get. Everybody should be starting at about the same place. So when I see that that needs to take place and I think that's a legitimate function. I mean it's an "iffy" kind of thing, cause you're still trying to maintain that neutrality and see if everybody's helping somebody else. There are times when it's just got to be done.

Wallace Warfield


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
So how do you deal with the notion that -- again, this is another thing taken out of the literature -- that in order to be successful in mediation, the parties have to be of relatively equal power. So what’s commonly done is mediators will work to empower the low-power group, and I’m hearing you say that you do that to a degree, but that can then cause problems with the other side.

Answer:
Well, it happens in the very beginning. Typically the way that happens in CRS and most other kinds of mediation where there’s this huge dis-equilibrium of power – and the same thing can happen in organizations, for example – is that you do your power-balancing in the beginning of the process. Let’s sort of walk through a typical process: you come into a community, you meet with the leadership in the community, then you meet with the so-called establishment side, the local officials, the business people, and the first thing they say to you is, "So who have you met with on the community side?” and so you say, "Well, I’ve met with so and so." They say, "Ah. A, B, and C is fine, but D and E.....those guys or those people -- known troublemakers, can’t have them involved in the process.” So right from the very beginning, there’s an attempt, even before you’ve gotten into the formal sessions, to discredit people who, in fact, could be the people who could redress the balance of power in a setting, because they know they don’t want those people there. They don’t want the balance of power. So I think the job of the conciliator or the intervener, just to think of a more neutral term, speaking of neutrality, is to convince the powers-that-be that if they really want this to be a successful outcome, without defining what success is at this point -- because you don’t want to do that -- then they need to be here. "You need to allow us to do our work, to make sure that the discussions stay on an even keel. We can’t promise you that there won’t be some explosions from time to time, but you know, you’re going to have to be prepared to deal with some of this if it happens." So, there was that aspect of it, right from the very beginning. And then, running throughout most interventions, you could say that at the beginning, but there would be these kinds of recidivist fall-backs to the same kind of attempt to slowly disempower people that they didn’t want to be at the table. Either in this particular forum, or others. Something that we don’t give enough credit to in general, is that parties in disputes or conflicts are pretty sophisticated. We think they look only at these particular issues, but in many cases, people in communities are thinking about, "What are the implications of this as an outcome for future relationships?” And read into that, "future power relationships.” So if they’re successful in this issue, we know that coming up next year there’ll be a bond issue about such-and-such. So they’re looking way down the line, in some cases much further than the mediator is. They’re looking at externalities that the mediator is not even seeing. So I think that the mediator then has to be able to constantly work to be able to do that. There are several techniques that the mediator, or the intervener, has with which to empower the low-power party. I think that the idea that CRS came in – if not explicitly, then certainly implicitly – to redress the power was certainly known by everyone. But the very fact that parties were being brought to the table, metaphorically and literally, was in fact a kind of equalizing of the power. Jim Laue had an expression, as a tap-dance around this issue of advocacy, by saying that he was "an advocate for the process”, remember that? Well, if you strip away the veneer, you see what he’s really saying. He’s an advocate for social change. If the process is going to bring about social change, then there’s the connection.....

Question:
How did this play with the white communities? Did it generally work?

Answer:
It depended. It really depended. Then again, in the social science field there’s a tendency to sort of demonize white communities. You know, "They’re all one thing or the other”. Well, the truth of the matter is that so-called white communities are fairly diverse in and of themselves. So the fact that you have a white leadership in a community, probably Republican, is supposed to mean, in the popular conception, that these are people who adhere to all the kinds of things that are an anathema to your perspective. You know, they’re right-wing people, they’re conservatives, they’re against affirmative action, so you just name a litany of things and that’s where they are. Well, if you got into these communities, what you began to discover was that when people live their lives in these communities, they articulate a different kind of perspective. It becomes a matter of, "We have to get through this particular situation.” So in some instances, you find some white leadership adhering to that kind of popular line, but on the other hand, you also find whites who say, "You know, we know this change is coming. It’s going to be inevitable; we have face up to this. We may not like it, but our children are going to grow up in this town, and we need to find a way of dealing with it.” It didn’t necessarily mean that they were ready to give away the proverbial shop; it’s just that these realizations and recognitions were there, and a good intervener would find a way to capitalize on that.

Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
What about in the context of the case? Do you do any training, especially with a minority group, in order to somewhat level the playing field?

Answer:
I would talk to the establishment and the minority group about learning how to clarify issues, and begin to strategize. I'll coach and train them. I'll sit in private with them, in kind of a teaching mode, and explain to them how to respond to a system and get what you need in a productive way. If you're going to do some destructive things, you can do that on your own. If you want to be productive, then I want to help you with that. A lot of the coaching, teaching, and technical assistance was not behind the scenes because I made sure everyone knew I was doing that. It wasn't undercover, I wasn't sneaking around and helping. Some of the establishment people weren't any more sophisticated about the issue than the community groups were, so I'd do the same thing for them. Generally, the issues were being generated out of the community because the establishment says they don't have any problems. The teaching and the coaching on the establishment side was to help them understand the dynamic of perception. I didn't feel like I had to make them fess up and say, "Yeah, we violated this rule," or, "We've not done all we can do." If you have to get them to confess, you're not going to get them to the table. If I could get them to say, "Sure, we could do better," then that's what I was after. My next goal is to help them emphasize and say, "We're not doing that. But, if they believe we're doing it, I understand why they're so frustrated." That was my next indication that we were moving in the right direction.

Question:
Can you verbalize how you moved in that way?

Answer:
It took time establishing that trust relationship. The community would be saying the same thing, "They're not going to be fair or honest. They're not going to deal with us with integrity, they never have." To be able to come to some point and say to the community, "They have assured me that they're coming to the table in good faith. Now I'm going to take them at their word. Are you going to at least give it a shot?" The same thing with the establishment. It was a matter of being able to verbalize for the community at first, this is how they feel. "If that happened to you, how would you feel?" "Well, I'd feel awful. But we didn't do that." "Well, I'm not saying you did. But if they believe you did, they feel that." That worked.

Question:
You're doing this before the group meeting?

Answer:
Yes. Right. One of my decisions about whether they were ready to meet at the table was whether or not I could get any glimmer of empathy from all sides, however many sides there were. If I couldn't get some awareness or sensitivity to other party's position, I was reluctant to go to the table. I might continue shuttling back and forth and come up with some kind of an agreement, but if you can't create empathy, you can't have a relationship. Without that, mediation is not going to work. If there's no reason for us to relate, there's no reason for me to empathize with you.

Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Let's talk a little bit more about the issue of power disparity between the parties, and CRS's role as a neutral. Even though you say you are a neutral, you also, in a sense, try to empower the low-power group, do you not? How do you balance that?

Answer:
If you mean how do I justify that, let's start with that piece first. Very easily, because I don't think I can do an effective job of mediating between two parties if there isn't some balance there. So unless I help bring about that balance, mediation won't work. Of course, you can't necessarily assume that because one side is a minority community that it's the powerless community. That's another issue. But let's assume that, in fact, there is a power imbalance. Unless I can help balance that, and empower each party to effectively participate at the mediation table, we're not going to have an effective, successful mediation. So I explain that to the institution and I offer pre- mediation training to both sides. I also use that as a way to help each of the parties identify what their interests and concerns are, and what they hope to get out of this process. Sometimes, that's particularly important for the institution, because they often start out from the perspective of, "Okay, how much do they want, and how much of that are we going to give them?" They rarely think in terms of, "What do we want, and how much of that are we going to get?" The reality is that they usually do want something from the community, so this helps them become aware of that. This is another trust-building mechanism as well because I'm acknowledging that, "You need things too! What is it that you want? What is it that you're looking for?" I want to make sure that both sides are heard and that we can talk about how each side's needs can be met. I also let the institution know that it's in their best interests to have a well-trained, capable party on the other side because it will be easier to deal with and negotiate with them if they are capable. Part of what the institution is afraid of is that they will have a group of ranting, raving maniacs on the other side that they can't communicate with. So part of what I'm providing is some security, some format which is reasonable from their perspective. I may say to the institution, "Now, you understand that party A is angry and they're going to need to express that. But trust me, we're going to get beyond that, and get to problem- solving." So I lay the groundwork for there being some anger. I hate to call it "venting," because to me "venting" sounds too patronizing. I don't want to be allowed an opportunity to vent; I want to be allowed an opportunity to be heard. So, even though the term "venting" might apply, I avoid that word because it does sound patronizing to me. It has undercurrents of, "They're just spouting off, and they really have nothing to say." In most cases they have a lot to say, but they've never been allowed to say it and be heard before.

Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Answer:
If I observe that one group is not able to negotiate with another group on a particular level, then we try to bring them up to that level. It'll never occur that they'll be on a really level field, but at least they should understand some of the things that might happen and some of the processes that might take place. Also, you talk to them in terms of the potential for the city or official group to try to buy them and not really do anything to fix the problem. For the most part, whenever I got involved with officialdom, I usually felt that's what they were trying to do. They weren't trying to be of any help.

Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
You just said something very interesting, "You had to work the ethnicity out of it." How do you do that?

Answer:
Very carefully. First of all, by trying to bring equity to the table in terms of numbers -- numbers of the organizations. And one of the things that happened here and it happened in other cities, is bringing back to the table individuals who did not currently have a title with the organization, but had held a title before and were highly respected. We asked them to come to the table and be sort of senior, elder spokespeople and bring unity, and that worked very well.

Question:
Did you try to get equal numbers of each race, or did you try to do something proportionately?

Answer:
I think proportionate to the organizations who actually signed to be members of the coalition.

Question:
And this was open to anybody who wanted to be included?

Answer:
Correct.

Ozell Sutton


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

And the next thing you are interested in establishing among people who before then had no power, you are interested in establishing in them a sense of power is the wrong word, but a sense of ways that they can protect themselves. In other words, you are empowering them. That's what I'm trying to say. And every time you ought to leave them empowered.

Question:
Yes, so you are strengthening their capacity.

Answer:
Oh yes. To deal with that problem, should it occur next week, or next year, or next ten years, that they aren't totally dependent on you, because you may not be in place. That they too can deal with it.

Question:
Hold that place and lets back up to empowerment. What are some techniques that you use to empower community members?

Answer:
Knowledge and know-how-- the ability to assess.

Question:
You taught them that? What did you teach them and how?

Answer:
You teach them how to locate resources. As I say, there are three levels of illiteracy, and only one of them is academic. Another one is systemic. How they use the system. Poor people and unempowered people are unempowered because they don't know how to use the system to their advantage. So they just go back and get mad about that. I have an old saying: Don't get mad, get even. Don't get mad is the same thing a preacher would say, don't curse the darkness, light a candle. And I call myself lighting a candle, teaching them how to utilize the system. The third area for illiteracy is that of race and ethnicity. We are so ignorant as it relates to race and other people beside ourselves. So I call that cultural illiteracy. We are culturally illiterate, we are academically illiterate, we are systematically illiterate, and when you put the three together, you can empower people. Blacks must learn how to solicit others in their fight. See, the question in America now is not just black and white, like it used to be. The Hispanics are coming in large numbers, as are Asians in this region. There is a greatly increased number of Asians in this region. From Cambodia, from Vietnam, and from other parts of the southeast Asia. I work with them and say, you know, "That's the Jewish community in there." The Hispanic community and you should get together. Go call on a leader with the Hispanic community. They have a natural kinship with you and so now they might not be willing to go as far as you are willing to go, because no one is willing to go as far as you're willing to go if it is your problem. So how to mobilize? I deal with black students on college campuses like that. How to be effective when you are a minority. Don't just sit back and say that white folk do this and white folk do that. They impose their decisions on us, get strategically into decision making bodies. Make sure someone from your group is on these bodies. You complain about spending all of the student activity fee and they won't bring anyone in that you want to come in and speak. Don't just sit back and complain, strategically get some of your people on the committee that disperses the money.

Question:
So knowledge of, as well as involvement in the system is important.

Answer:
That's true. It's important to know how to use it. Until you benefit like everyone else. Otherwise the majority uses it to its benefit.

Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
You’ve talked off and on about empowering the low power groups. Are there any other ways that you do that, that you haven’t mentioned already?

Answer:
I think a large part of our work was empowering, even though we’re doing conflict management, even though we’re helping communities find peace. Our mandate is to help communities to resolve problems, differences, and disagreements. The whole thing is empowerment. You’re bringing a group together, you’re helping them find ways to come together. You’re educating, growing on the experience of the mediator on the scene, and educating people as to how you behave to get better results, helping them understand that you can only get so much based on how much power you have. Helping them understand the factors that go beyond "you.” Mediation really was an education process for people at all levels, from the most sophisticated local leadership to grass roots community members who were trying to boost up their organizations and get things. It isn’t always that way; very often the groups that we would work with would be very sophisticated.

Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Changing gears completely again, we’ve talked on and off about giving technical assistance to parties. You’ve talked quite a bit about what you would do with the minority parties, but did you bring technical assistance for the majority parties, the authority figures?

Answer:
There was less of a need, but yes, we would put them in touch with counterparts and other communities who had experienced the same things. Sometimes you would do that for your own credibility, but sometimes they would have useful advice for their colleagues. Sometimes you would provide a police chief with firearms policies from other cities, sometimes you would bring a consultant to a police department from another city’s police department. That was very popular. I mentioned that I did that at the Minnesota reformatory. I brought in a corrections commissioner from another state. Sometimes we provide training for either party. You’d work with police or you’d help people put training programs together that would bring the minority community into the training process with police.

Question:
And what about technical assistance for the minority community?

Answer:
Sometimes it was advice based on your experience elsewhere, sometimes it was paper based on things they could be doing or things other communities generated elsewhere. Sometimes it was people, bring in a consultant to work with them. Sometimes it was putting them in touch with people from other communities. That was typically what the technical assistance was comprised of. And sometimes training. I guess you could call the types of things you just do in your day-to-day work technical assistance, even though it wouldn’t be labeled that. It’s helping them sort out their organizational matters when you’ve developed a relationship that enables you to do that.

Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

If it's a minority group that feels disempowered, a lot of times, they themselves will say, "We have no power here except the power of numbers, and we're putting ourselves out there." If nothing else they'll put their bodies out. Others in society may call a person with influence, they can call somebody to help them work things through, they can call a congress person, they can call a city official, they can call a city council member, and they speak on their behalf and the problem gets resolved. But sometimes minorities feel that they don't have those resources or those avenues, so they just put themselves out there. We give them access to those environments where decisions are being made or can be made. Access that they didn't have before. If that's empowerment, I don't know, but we're giving them access, they themselves can then negotiate to resolve the problem. For some reason they may have not been able to do this before.


FOOTNOTE 8: Mediator Comments on Addressing Parties' Concerns in Mediation

Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

You mentioned a checklist -- is this a mental checklist that you have?

Answer:
A mental checklist, yes.

Question:
And what's on this checklist?

Answer:
Who's to be involved, certain time limits, what goals and objectives did they set that were different than what you had originally thought of terms of. Who else they are involving and any money that is involved. Also, what additional role is there for me? What will I be able to do? Who am I going to assist? Am I going to assist a Human Relations Council, or am I going to assist the people, or do I assist them together? It's much easier if we can work harmoniously with all the groups as they come together, than to assist one over the other, because it may appear as if we're taking a position with the Human Relations Commission and have forgotten about them being able to represent themselves and speak for themselves.

Manuel Salinas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did you design a plan for handling this?

Answer:
No, really not. Once they began to ask a few more questions though, and the people began to ask questions or say " we don't like this, or that, or the way the department has handled things before," then the only plan that I had in mind was for me to be able to sell them on the idea that we need to know more, and the way you're going to know more is through a police assessment. I told them that we could handle that for them and bring that team together on behalf of the community and work with the chief to make sure that this is done. And they thought that would be a very good idea, since they knew very little about the department, they thought this would be very helpful to them for the long range, for later on. So we had that done. And the chief agreed on that. He wasn't reluctant at all, and that's one good thing about it. Had we had a very stubborn chief of police, it would have been more difficult. There would have had to be greater protest and for a longer period of time. The protest didn't last that long. Things were beginning to move in the direction that the committee felt would be helpful. The chief then was looking for something that would help him. So it would help both parties.


FOOTNOTE 9: Mediator Comments on Fact-Finding in Mediation

Ernest Jones


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Now in this particular case, mentioning that, did you feel that the conflict became defined a little bit differently as time went on?

Answer:
No it was the same. There were clear issues. That's the one good thing about that situation was that the issues were pretty clear and definitive and the numbers were there. The data was existed.

Question:
So there weren't any factual discrepancies?

Answer:
No there were a lot of discrepancies because people would express their position on an issue and over a period of time they came to distort the issue.

Question:
For example?

Answer:
They'd make statements like a black has never held a position above Sergeant. Well that's not true and the city could show that in fact they'd had an assistant chief who was black. They'd had a black captain. They'd had a black major. They had a bunch of black lieutenants. Over the history of the department they'd had these but what had happened is that the black officers just kept saying nobody has been above a Sergeant. And all of a sudden that becomes the truth for them and it wasn't the truth. Factually that wasn't the truth, but for the black officers that was real-- it had just materialized to that point. I could just cite that for a whole bunch of different issues from the cities perspective, from the FOP's perspective, and from the black's perspective. This is just human nature. We allow things to become something that they're not because of the emphasis that we place on it.

Question:
Now once the facts were actually given and provided did the other side accept those as facts?

Answer:
Well let's just take the one we were just talking about. As I recall the response was something to the effect of well, yeah we forgot about that, but that was 30 years ago. We're talking about today. And that happened with those kinds of issues. People reluctantly understand that the historical data is there because it's on paper and people can prove it. But because they've made that an issue and they've stated their position, somehow there's got to be some face saving taking place here and so we change the focus to today. That's what we're talking about. And that way everybody has saved face all the way around the table. And that happens a lot and it happened a lot in this case.

Question:
So they didn't lose any of their validity?

Answer:
Their perspective, was "well we showed you." It's incredible to me how childish adults can be. I don't know why because I see it repeatedly day after day but it has a whole "one-upsmanship." Well we showed you that you were wrong. Yeah you did but you had to go back thirty years to do it. It has that whole attitude. So everybody feels that they've made their point and now we just have to figure out how to get it down on paper. That's the trick. <


FOOTNOTE 10: Mediator Comments on Maintaining or Regaining Control in Mediation

Julian Klugman


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Answer:
One I mentioned was the kid.

Question:
But what were the various approaches you used for dealing with that?

Answer:
I quieted them down. You're teaching them, you're a role model. It's how do you deal with that anger. I've been in some very violent situations, where you get angry, your heart starts beating, and your natural impulse is to lash out. That's where training comes in. Or, if I'm really angry or if the violence is really scaring me, I take a deep breath and I psychologically step back a foot. I wait until my heart stops pounding which takes about sixty seconds before I respond at all. You can be angry, but it's got to be controlled. Listen to what the person's saying, don't respond to the anger. Don't be condescending, don't be a smart-aleck, don't act like you're really afraid. Don't be a psychiatrist, but do take the person off the hook and depersonalize it. And this is where the interracial thing becomes important. There are differences between people and between groups and how they deal with anger. Do you know the book that the white professor at the University of Illinois did about the differences in confrontation between black and white? It's an excellent book; you ought to read it. You've got a great difference in perception sometimes of what's happening. I saw it in Palm Springs once. Here's this nice, sweet, young white teacher and a black woman parent came out with a lot of anger, which really wasn't directed at this woman. The white woman started crying and the superintendent wrote a complaint letter to the Attorney General of the U.S. about the mediator.

Question:
How does the mediator deal with that problem?

Answer:
Well, you're a role model, you ease up the flow. You might suggest a bathroom break.

Question:
Then you take the black person aside and say the reason she's reacting this way is because...

Answer:
No. I would not presume to tell this woman she does not have a right to be angry. This young white teacher; you tell her it's not personal. She was head of the cheerleaders and there were no black cheerleaders. There was no prejudice involved, of course, but the Palm Springs high school did not have any black cheerleaders. So they wanted some black cheerleaders and she had her own little kingdom of cheerleaders. There are a number of techniques. You break the flow, you talk calmly, you go onto another issue. You assert control in the situation.

Question:
Going back to the anger management, when things get really hot in a mediation, how do you cool them down?

Answer:
Sometimes you can make a joke. Everybody likes it when you laugh at yourself and make fun of yourself, so you can diffuse a situation through humor. One former CRS director used to draw cartoons. Very good ones. I'll show you, I've got a whole series of them. He would sit there and he was like a professional cartoonist, although he was a lawyer.

Question:
Break the flow. Any other ideas?

Answer:
About how you handle it? Ultimately you could adjourn the meeting, if you had to, or you could have a recess. And then you talk to the person.

Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

What I told this principal was, "Do you know the players, do you know the real players that were involved in this altercation?" She said, "Yes, between the counselors and security, we know who the players are." I said, "Okay, bring them in, one by one. Tell them, you need their help. Tell them 'I want to make sure that we bring this school back together, and I need your help. Will you help me?' You're the principal of the school." And she said, "Oh yeah, just bring them in one by one?" I said, "Yes, see if you can get them to support you." "What happens if they don't?" she asked. "Keep them on suspension."So I called her that evening and she said, "Steve, every one of them gave their word. It's amazing, these are great kids." I said, "Yeah, they are. Have you never met them before?' She said, "Now what do I do?" I said, 'Ok, they're keeping their word, they're helping to keep things calm?" She said, "Yeah they are, but I don't think I can just leave it like this." I said, "Now that they've made a commitment to you, you can bring them together as a group. So bring the Samoan kids in. Remind them they've already made their commitment, that they've individually given their word so that peer pressure doesn't take them to another level. Then talk to them about how we need you all to control not only yourselves as individuals, but also others to help diffuse the tension here. Then bring in the other group and do the same thing." So she talked to them and she said, "They all agree, we're all on the same page. Things are still okay."

Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Do you have techniques you use for reducing tensions between the parties?

Answer:
Sometimes they get hot and I have to watch the parties and see what level of tolerance one has of each group. I read the behaviors and decide whether to ask them to calm down. Sometimes I call for timeouts and ask for caucuses. There have been times where I've said, "Wait a minute, we need to review why we're here and what tone and ground rules we've agreed to abide by. If I sense some discomfort by some of the people, I'll say, "By the behavior of the individuals there seems to be a need to take some of that tone out of here," or "Could we take a time out?" At that time I can meet with individuals to draw out that person and speak to that person directly and say, "You know you're creating a level of hostility. Do we want to move forward in working towards a solution? We're not going to cut you out of getting your voice and what you want to accomplish, but the tone is going to possibly harden the other side, so it depends what you want to accomplish here. Think about that as you convey your issues. You could be passionate, but don't get to the point where you're so aggressive that it harms the process." I think those are the kinds of techniques that I have used.

Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The other thing I wanted to mention about tension is I think it's always good to bring humor. I have a very light humor. They always say something that you can play off on that you can stay within the context and still be light enough but bring enough humor to defuse some of that tension. I think humor is a very valuable tool. Some people know how to use it and some people don't. It's tricky, I know, because you can get hurt with humor sometimes, but I found humor to be a very meaningful way to relieve tension and a valuable one.

Question:
Do you have any examples or guidelines for humor?

Answer:
Well, now you're asking me. I can't tell jokes, I can't remember. Maybe, the things that you play off on are things you hear and the misinterpretations we have and using yourself as the vehicle for humor versus any of the parties. But, everybody will say something and then they'll know it's a miscommunication or it's a faux pas of some type and you catch it and you go "Did you hear that one?" Just a light playoff on words sometimes can relieve a lot of tension. When you see the parties warming up in that vein of a little humor sometimes, it gets a whole lot of invigorated faith in the other person's ability to recognize that the other party is just another human being with needs and interest just like me.

Edward Howden


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
What you did to reduce tensions when they are high? Did you ever run into a situation in mediation where things got really tense and you needed to calm them down?

Answer:
Sometimes. I was usually able to moderate the situation without any heavy handedness. Once in a while a certain decisiveness, maybe even standing up and speaking very loudly, was necessary. That was rare, but I can recall a couple of occasions where that, in my judgment, became necessary. One was a business mediation, which was kind of unusual for us to do, but a minority sub-contractor was one of the parties on a big housing development that had been ninety-seven percent completed. It was a middle income development, and there was an impasse between this sub-contractor who had some minor finishing work to do and the general contractor who was not minority. They had some bad blood on various things, various past hassles, and now they were right at impasse. As I recall, somebody from HUD called us. HUD was involved in some aspects of the financing and everybody wanted to see the project finished since housing was a desperate need. The attorneys for the two parties actually were willing to have us give them a hand. One of the attorneys handled arrangements and they were willing to move fast, like tomorrow. I had no chance to study the issue. They were so anxious to get to it, I think it was the attorney for the minority sub-contractor, that he arranged the meeting room in a major hotel-- normally I would be doing that. Anyhow, we got into that session quickly. The minority sub-contractor, the main person, didn't have a bonding capacity or something, he had some kind of a problem financially, and he had brought in this guy from New York to help him. We went through the regular opening routine and I explained to these folks, "look, you all understand that I'm not expert in the contracting business and I've had no chance to study up on this as there's been no time. You're in a hurry, so you're going to have to educate me as we go along, and I may have a lot of questions." They agreed, and we got going. We got fairly well into it but then an impasse developed and people got angry. A gentleman representing the minority sub-contractor who was six foot three and big strong guy, said angrily, "I'm not going to take any more of this, you know," and accused the general contractor of insulting him. "I'm not going to take any of this, this is a waste of time" and he stood up to walk out. So I'm at the end of the table and I stood up and said, "Dammit, Mr..., you agreed to the approach we were going to take to this, and we are following that approach and I think we can make it, so please sit down." He paused a moment, and then he sat down. And we got on with it. By the end of the day we had a deal. As a matter of fact, Mr... was so happy with the deal, he invited everybody down to a bar at this famous hotel and bought us a round of drinks. There was one other intra-tribal scene where a lot of folks were present and it was just not feasible to limit it to a four or five member team. Actually there were several teams from either side. There was a clan or family grouping, with history behind it, that was very unhappy for maybe a couple of generations. Some of the other members of the band insisted on being present. It wasn't public with press, but there was quite a crowd, and that got messy. People were standing up shouting, and it became pretty difficult to have any orderly process. After a time trying to keep it on track, I asked for a recess and spoke with some of the folks. I explained that we had agreed in advance who the people were who were going to handle this, and I told them that we were not going to be able to pull it off if it continued like it was going. "I don't want to tell anybody to go home, I can't tell anybody to go home," I said, " but how about we convene the original group in such and such a room." So we proceeded on that basis. But that was one case where it was it couldn't have gone anywhere on the basis on which it had started. In situations with high tensions, from time to time there would be individuals who would explode or get close to exploding, but usually we didn't have anything fall apart when that happened. We were able to have our recess and to caucus and get back on track.

Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Answer:
A lot of times you do. A lot of times you want to have one side overcome their hostility or let it all hang out and then sometimes, it hangs out no matter who is there. You just have to be cool and let them talk; don't go in there and try to shut them up. Usually if you don't say anything, someone from their group will quiet the loud individual and that's more effective than if you do it yourself. When somebody's up there and they have the floor, the best thing you can do is let them speak. Most people, unless they have some real problem, will accept that you are a mediator.

Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Going back to the meetings, how did you reduce tension? If you've got somebody up there screaming at the other side because they're so mad about all of these issues, that's likely to make people on the other side mad. What did you do to keep the meeting under control?

Answer:
Well, there were times, when needless to say, I had to exert some kind of authority. I had to -- from time to time and depending on the situation -- say, "Wait a minute, we're not having stuff like that." And most of the time I could reduce the tension by stepping in that way.

Question:
How do you make a judgment call about when to do that?

Answer:
Well, it depends on if somebody's threatening violence, and generally you can tell when that is going to happen. I remember one time in Oklahoma, the white establishment business council, came in and put their guns on the table in front of the council and the sheriff. How were we going to deal with that, because the sheriff wouldn't tell them to remove their guns." So, before things got started, I just got vehement. I didn't know if it was going to work; I suppose if they had said, "Shut up and get your black butt out of here," I would have left, but they didn't. I got up and I said, "Hold it! None of this!" I put on my best act like I was mad, my eyes got big as saucers. I was scared of them, but they didn't know I was scared. I was really scaring them! They said, "Oh. Yes sir. Yes sir." Boy, they went back out to their pick up trucks and got rid of those weapons. The minorities in this situation were Hispanics instead of Indian. That was the only time I ever saw anybody put their firearms on the table.

Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Interesting story. When you brought parties together when tensions were high, what did you do to try to facilitate effective communications?

Answer:
I would let them talk and do a lot of listening. Sometimes counsel parties if somebody got very angry. Sometimes you would say something like "I can’t tell anybody what to say, or how to behave, but I just want to emphasize that when we use certain language it makes it difficult to communicate and make progress, so I’ll ask you to just keep that in mind.” That wasn’t often. No, I would never tell anybody how to talk to anybody. It might come up. I think people understood what the ramifications of their behaviors were and they had to play it out when they were together. Usually, by the time you get to the table the anger has been expressed sufficiently so that the level of anger expressed at the table is mitigated a bit.

Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Do you do anything else that you haven't already described to try to manage really strong emotions?

Answer:
I pay attention to the setting. How people are arranged in the room, whether they're sitting close to each other, if they're really hostile toward each other. I may intentionally put myself between them. Have enough room between them so that they're not going to feel threatened by one another. I remind them in a private meeting, they may not want to embarrass anybody, think of what it's going to cost. If you continue in this direction we're not going to move toward productive resolution. But if you feel that strongly, that may not be an appropriate response. I think that always needs to be restated when emotions are really high. Not to try to push them on, but to give them an out. If you feel that strongly, this may not be the appropriate avenue. You may need to take legal action. You may need to use another option. Most times they'll come back from that and say, "No. I really want to try to do this. Maybe we need to meet another day. Get some more information." A lot of that I've dealt with in private groups where they've been allowed to really vent as much as they want and then I begin to test some of that. This is not a community example, but it's a clear example. Some of the community people believed that this municipality and the business leadership intentionally kept the gas prices in their community high, because those establishment people could all go outside the community to get gasoline. The community was pretty much confined to the community to buy gas and their gasoline prices were higher. I traveled from there and out of there all the time, and the reality was that the prices were cheaper in town, then they were out of town. But to say that to them immediately, is not helpful. But as they gained trust venting, I began to test some of that and say, "Okay, have you checked some of that out?" So next meeting they come back with better information. I had one situation where the community just swore that if you were arrested and a minority, when you were taken to jail you would be beaten, no questions asked. I shared this with the chief and the staff, his administrators. They were just horrified. One of the deputies said, "we haven't beaten anybody for twenty years!" I said, "Well, they remember." He couldn't believe that the community still carried that perception. I didn't even tell him as I remember, he had the courage to go ask. He was really horrified that people would say that. He had the courage to ask the prisoners that he had right then, "what did you think was going to happen when you got here?" They said, "we expected to be beaten." He then had the courage to come back to our group and say that. That's what they thought, that's what they believed. I said, "That's the power of history. People carry any incident with them, until there's intentional effort to change that history." You know you haven't done that for twenty years, but there's been no intentional effort to say to the community, "that's not who we are anymore." Those were examples of where you deal with some of the reality checking ahead of time, so you begin to break down some of the myth. You break down as many of the myths as possible, so that by the time you get to the table, there's some basis for discussions. If all of these myths are true, then you don't have much relationship to deal with. If you can see that some of those myths don't have a reality base, then you begin to think maybe there are some things we can talk about. If that wasn't true, maybe we were misunderstood.


FOOTNOTE 11: Mediator Comments on Mediator Roles

Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

How instrumental were you as a CRS worker in developing those interests and directing both sides to maybe show the data or show that good faith was there?

Answer:
Of course I want to say it wouldn't have happened without us. I think we were instrumental. I think that some people see facilitators as just sort of being there and making it happen. After a while, I think you almost unconsciously help frame it in terms of making sure that both sides see what the significance is. You make sure that both sides take out the significance of the information that they were getting from the other side and understand why that information was being presented. I think that's what is often missed. Frequently, you have two parties in a conflict and there's been a lot of talk and a lot of alleged communication, but just because people are talking, doesn't mean that they're communicating. So part of the role that we, as mediators, play, is making sure that if people are talking, that the other side is listening and understanding. In a setting like this, I think that was as crucial as any case that we've worked in.

 

Bob Hughes


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

How did you deal with parties who came to the table just giving lip service who weren't really negotiating in good faith?

Answer:
Well, hopefully try not to arrange mediation until they were in fact ready to deal with sincerity. But if it happened anyway I would probably not attempt to go very far before talking with them privately and pointing out that I felt like they might not be as open as they needed to be to participate in mediation.

Question:
Was it usually handled simply like that? A simple caucus saying, "I don't think you are being as open as you should be." Now do they automatically go back in and are they forthright?

Answer:
No, probably the next day. We would probably be adjourned for that day. I would not expect a change of behavior without some period of reflection on what I was raising.

Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Were there ever situations where you got people to the table but they weren’t negotiating in good faith?

Answer:
Of course.

Question:
Then what?

Answer:
When you find out you have to address it. I’m trying to keep the theoretical from the practical and actual. There are times when people come together and they aren’t going to negotiate in good faith, but they have to come together. I certainly think there are cases where people had their mind made up and couldn’t bring themselves to change it and had no intention to. Again, I don’t know if that’s not in good faith, I think for example that at Kent State, with the trusties and the University being very conservative and not yielding an inch and having no compassion, sympathy, or empathy for the protestors that they were not going to budge an inch unless they were forced to. So there you have low trust levels, and unwillingness to change. What you’re hoping is that when people come around the table and hear each other out, they will move off of their intractable positions. But again, the politics have to actually permit people to change. If you’re dealing with nations, or high institutions perhaps for political reasons they can’t change. If you’re dealing with people across the table who aren’t bound that way, they can make some concessions and some changes. Sometimes they can do it and save face. But you can get a school superintendent to make some changes that are totally unacceptable to him for political reasons. His board would never accept it and his public would never accept it. Yet there are changes that he might make after listening, just as he does other things he is asked to do, that are just as important to the community, that he could do without risk. So that when he came in that room, he wasn’t going to yield an inch, but as he listened he found out that he could. I think that comes into play. So it really depends on the political constraints on the establishment party and also on the community party. In the building trades the group couldn’t move, wouldn’t meet, because trust levels were so low. But there was something going on in that coalition, in the building trades coalition, that prevented them from moving forward. That had to be worked out internally without outside intervention or interference. They had to work out their own power struggle internally before they could move forward.

Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Typically when you reach an impasse, and there's no give and take by either party, we like to call a caucus and see if we can get any more information as to what are the particulars and what are the positions and concerns of either party with regards to the issue we are stuck on. In the caucus, I try to clarify where people are on the issues, and why.

 

Bob Hughes


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

One, the main thing we need to get is a free and frank exchange of ideas. This can be brutal at times. I've had a mayor walk out of a meeting and I had to chase him and say, "This is what we've got to have, get all the problems out here on the table now. Whatever way it takes. We should be understanding, and it may hurt, but it's much more important that we be frank and talk about it, rather than lay only part of the issues out and still have other issues, concerns, or problems. This is our chance to deal with them."

Ozell Sutton


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Things were so hot in the mediation and so volatile, that I decided to call a caucus right there. That's one of the techniques, caucus. I brought the black police officers here, and whites in the conference room. I assigned two staff members to the conference room and I took the black officers, because that's where the interest comes from and they were threatening to walk out. I walked up to the door and blocked the door. If anybody goes out of this room, he'll have to go over me. I know you're police officers and you really can go over me, but I don't think you want to do that. And that's what you're going to have to do. Nobody's going out of this room until we have at least agreed that you should go out. He said, "I've never seen a more determined person than you were. You stopped smiling, and that's the capacity that you have, you smile a lot. But boy, you stopped smiling so fast it got me sweating." Nobody's going out of this door unless they go over me.

Question:
So you gave them an opportunity for them to vent in a caucus or in the actual mediation?

Answer:
I wanted to clear up some issues in here before I went back in there. I wanted the opportunity to convince them that they were saying things that I would clear and that I personally would assure them. Now you're getting away from the processes and talking about 'I'. I said, "I don't think there's a man in this room that does not know that Ozell does not sell the interests of black folk short." I would not sell them short, and their interests short.

Question:
This is in caucus?

Answer:
This is in caucus. Now the only thing I'm talking about here is I will pursue those interests. In other words, your cause.

Question:
Did you feel that it was necessary to say that explicitly?

Answer:
It felt especially necessary to say that explicitly. To let them know that I knew. I even did something that a mediator does not do very often. I went back into my own personal credentials, personal identification and personal credentials, been there. So not only am I not going to sell you short, I'm not going to let that happen in mediation. That way I got them back in the room

Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

If somebody wants to walk away from the negotiations, do you work to keep them there, or would you say okay?

Answer:
At times when it's happened to me, I halted the discussions and conferred with each side. I think I told you the last time about the superintendent, the parents, and the civil rights group. They both walked out, because in mediating they couldn't decide how they were going to proceed. So we just came up with a way that one would listen to the other for fifteen minutes and then vice versa.


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by Conflict Management Initiatives and the Conflict Information Consortium at the University of Colorado