Did you find yourself assisting one party to understand the other party's perspective?


Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Did representation ever become a difficult issue? "Why's he at the table and I'm not?” or vice versa?

Answer:
More, "Why is that fraternity here since they're the perpetrators?” Because they were self-selected out of the groups. If a group was a party, then they self-selected their representation to the table. Now they could've had two or three choices maybe, but generally any group in the student group population, I believe, had two or three representatives at the table. But they were self selected, so that was part of the way they were not competing with each other. They'd already taken care of that. If we left a group out, that might become an issue. Why wasn't this group represented there? A lot of times the parties will want to leave out the most outrageous groups, and we try to make it clear that those are the very people you need at the table. They definitely need to be a part of that environment of discussion, where they see that people are trying to reason, and that their approach is not the acceptable approach. Sometimes they'll drop out once they see that they're not going to be able to dominate. But at least they need to be invited.




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.




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Did you ever have to help one side understand the other side's views?

Answer:
Probably always. I think a party's first inclination was, "They don't understand us, and they're wrong." Again, I think one of the critical elements of mediation is that there's got to be an acknowledgment of the legitimacy of the other party's interest. You don't have to say you agree with it, you may not even think it's worthy, but you've got to agree they've got a legitimate right to have that position or that interest. The community never believed that the establishment honored their interest or even understood them. In fact, they were intentionally trying to undermine their interest. That was the community's perception and sometimes it was true, but sometimes it wasn't. The establishment’s position was, "We haven't done anything wrong. Those are just a few troublemakers. You're just going to cause more trouble by being here." It was that dance of seeing if I could get them to at least say, "That's not true, we didn't do that, but if they believe we did it, I see why they're so angry." To me that legitimizes the interest.

Question:
That's when you're willing to go to the table?

Answer:
Yes.

Question:
What did you do when one side had an issue or demand that the other side considered absolutely non-negotiable?

Answer:
Once it came to the table if there were enough other things that were important to move ahead, we'd put it aside. Often, the important thing about that is, if you try to press at that point, the whole thing breaks down and you don't gain anything. If you put it to the side, by the time you've come through all the rest, you bring it back over and say, "Is there any chance we could look at this?" By then there's been enough confidence and trust built that they can work through that now. Sometimes not, sometimes it stays there and you may give them some ideas about other ways of addressing that. Other resources for referral, but not everything is appropriate. You can't always get the parties to address every issue.

Question:
When you identify something as non-negotiable, do you just table whatever it is and go on?

Answer:
Yeah, it's not always the standard, but generally I have already discovered some things in small group meetings that they agree on, and they don't even know it. That's one of the benefits of the mediator too. You begin to know some things about the groups, such as where they're really willing to negotiate, but they're not willing to tell the other group. You've got to honor that confidence, but at least you have some hope and you can share that hope. Or you already know that on an issue of minority hiring, there's agreement there, the department has been frustrated about being able to find good recruits, but their interest is there. The community's perception is that they just don't want to. Teacher's especially, I've had lots of school districts say we've tried and we want to hire some minority teachers, but the community's perception is that they don't even want to. Again, I'm not going to judge whether or not the administration is telling me the truth or not. I'm taking them at their word, so we're going to help them know how. The community has to help me find the resources. You're going to help them to know what schools to go to and who to talk to, to get qualified, competent, minority teachers who will come back to this community. Why should they teach here when they can make ten thousand dollars more in Dallas? It's a reality, that it is a reality. So it does become a joint effort if it's going to be successful. Now I know from talking to them, they both really want to hire minorities, and that's something we can start with. I would try to start with things I felt they were closer to agreement on, because it begins to build some camaraderie and sense of working together, and effort to solve some of the community's problems.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

What do you think are the most effective techniques for encouraging one party to see the other party's perspective?

Answer:
Well, I learned this from Jan Sunoo of FCMS. I like the one where you say, "Okay, before we actually go towards a solution to this issue, why don't you state what the other party's position is." Then the other party is asked to state the opposite parties position." So, you really force the summary of how the parties captured everything that had been said in regards to that issue before we go to closure and resolution on it. That's a good technique because it really puts them in the position to say, "Well this is exactly where I thought you were coming from," and visa versa. That's one good technique that is very useful in mediation. I use a lot of summary to pull out the common understanding and ask for reflection and discussion and clarification. That's a way to make sure we are on the same page and discussing the same issues and that we understand it in the same way. I do a lot of writing on easels to point out what points we've made up to now and does everybody understand that. Ask a lot of questions: Are there any differences in opinion? Is there anything more that needs to be said about this or are we ready to go to resolution? So, that works. A lot of it comes naturally through dialogue and the discussion by the parties. You know it happened and that they fully understand by their counters or by their stated thoughts: "I didn't see it that way, this is what happened to me," or "I didn't know you thought that way!" A lot of times you hear it in the dialogue itself and you don't need to do anymore. So, it's a combination of all those things.






Bob Hughes


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Heidi asked you a little while ago about helping the groups prioritize. During this initial meeting, or the second meeting where parties are expressing themselves, do you allow them to express themselves in the language and the tone that they choose, or do you try to coach them to express themselves in a certain way?

Answer:
You've asked several questions. 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." There would be some opportunity for going into the background of these issues, too. For example, the disenfranchisement of Indians and violation of treaties, there was at least some allusion to that. It's important to Native Americans that this be in the background of the record, even though it may not be dealt with in detail. In any case, if there's time that day for the other side to give it's listing of issues and concerns, and what and why, then we would go into that. If at the first session problem identification was not completed by one of the parties, then we would pick it up at the next session. All of one side identified it's problems in their entirety, and then the other one would have it's opportunity to give it's side. And to a certain extent, of course, answers to questions or perceptions would be given.

Question:
So I gather that if one side, like the Native Americans, accuses the other side of doing something, you hold off before the landowner makes a rebuttal statement.

Answer:
The other party is not expected to give any answer to what's being said by the other party.

Question:
Did you ever have a problem where people wanted to rebut? Did you have to control that?

Answer:
I'm sure I did. I can't remember specifically.

Question:
How would you handle that?

Answer:
Essentially, after making some kind of a statement, saying, "Okay, you will have an opportunity to answer this a little bit later. Just hold off. The important thing is to get this out, and then we want you to give your side of this."

Question:
Did you ever find yourself assisting one party to try to understand the other party's position?

Answer:
I think it's the role of the mediator to restate for purposes of clarification. Sometimes, it's needed to clarify, and even, "Is this what you're saying?"

Question:
Did that seem to help, or were there times when the party who was speaking said, "No, that's not what we mean?"

Answer:
Oh, I'm sure that happened. Heck, I'm a non-Indian and have no background. I didn't even know what they were talking about when I first got the complaint in this. You know what the title to the case is that I wrote on the file? Beach standing Indian's complaint. Later on, that didn't mean a thing. What's a beach standing Indian? But they were talking about Indians who were standing on the waterfront fishing. So I had to learn what a meander line was, and that sort of thing. They had to explain it to me before I could really go anywhere with it.

Question:
Did you do anything to try to diminish tensions between parties?

Answer:
As I had mentioned earlier, at times it's all you can do to keep them in the same room. I want them to be frank, I want to be in communication, and then frank communication, I'm not nearly as worried at that stage about the feelings of each other. I think it's more important to be frank.

Question:
Once you get past the sharing stage, if that's what you want to call it, what's the next phase of the process?

Answer:
I wouldn't call it sharing, but explanation of our concerns, our issues, our complaints. That holds a little different connotation than my sharing these concerns with you.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

One thing we looked at were the friction points of the Vietnamese not obeying the laws and customs. We went to the Parks and Wildlife Department. They control hunting and fishing throughout Texas and I asked them for the ten commandments of fishing and crabbing in Texas. They had eight regulations, so then we needed to teach them to the Vietnamese. Once I got the eight commandments, I had my wife write them on posterboard and then I went to the Vietnamese people I was working with, and they translated them for me. So I had the regulations in English and Vietnamese and we had a training program. The game wardens would say the regulation in English and it would be translated into Vietnamese, and we would give them all these laws in writing in both languages. The other part was the Vietnamese/American custom barrier. That caused more problems. For example, when a shrimper or crabber is out in the bay if they have problems with their boat, such as mechanical problems, anybody at sea is supposed to come and help them. The long-time fisherman were complaining that their boats would have trouble and they would signal, but the Vietnamese would just laugh at them. This would make them more angry. "Not only are they taking our way of life, but they're mocking us." But the Vietnamese said they thought they were waving at them, so they were waving back and smiling at them because they wanted to be very friendly. They couldn't understand what the signal was, because they'd never seen the signal. Through these training programs they taught each other.



Wallace Warfield


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
How did you diminish tension between very hostile parties?

Answer:
I don’t know. I guess there were a number of different techniques. One way would be to actually bring people into a forum where they could hear what the other person was saying, absent of the kind of rhetorical flourishes that would often-times take place in the other forum. So, in one situation in that midwestern city I mentioned earlier, the local militant, who was given to walking into the City Council chambers and completely disrupting the City Council meeting, but had to be escorted or carried out by the police – that, and activities like that, defined who he was in the minds of the white establishment, which created a certain amount of tension. So what we were offering was a different forum for him to be heard. The response was, "He’s going to act up.” "Well, you’ve got to trust us that he’s not going to take that particular stance.” And then that’s your job, as the intervener, to assure that that doesn’t happen, to a certain extent. So, often-times you’d hear things: "You never told me that before.” "You never gave me the chance to talk to you like that.” When you start hearing that dialogue, you can start pulling out. I mean, you can start literally pulling yourself out of the triad. They’re talking to each other; they’re now talking from the heart about what they didn’t say to each other, over all of these years that they could have been talking. "I didn’t know you felt this way.” "Well, you weren’t listening.” So, that’s one way. CBMs are another way – Confidence-Building Measures. It’s another way of doing it: "So, demonstrate to me that you’re serious about making some change, and then I’ll respond.” Typical in the international arena, but Confidence-Building Measures can also be demonstrated in local, domestic issues as well. So that’s another way of doing it. The classic building-block approach – the whole way you build trust.....




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Did you find yourself helping each side understand the issues from the perspectives of the other side?

Answer:
Yes, and that was probably one of our primary tasks. Where you could, you brought the parties together and facilitated their communicated. But very often, you found that you couldn’t, or that in the interim you had to help explain to one side or the other what was happening and why. It often lacked credibility coming from a third party, so that was not the preferred way to work. What you would try to convey to parties was the importance of sitting down with the other side. You needed to communicate that to them without saying how they should then proceed. We never told somebody you shouldn’t stop demonstrating. We never told somebody you shouldn’t stop enforcing the law, but we did say you ought to sit down and talk.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Would you go over to the other side and say, look I think you’re going to have to drop this demand?

Answer:
Now they are going to have to decide that. They have to know the consequences of hanging in there. Again, in that case, there was nothing in the balance. I’m going to give you another example of one of my favorite stories. We were negotiating the Cairo, Illinois, voters rights case which had been languishing for years until the city finally decided to get it resolved. The negotiators were two attorneys from Carbondale, Illinois who had been retained by the city to handle this for them. They weren’t from that community. And there were two civil rights lawyers from the Land of Lincoln Law Firm in St. Louis. We had several meetings in the courthouse and they had done some communicating and we finally got the matter resolved. They agreed that instead of at large voting there would be by district voting, so there could be, for the first time in history, black representation on the city council. They decided how to divide the city and they decided how to pick the mayor and everything was done. Boy, I thought, we were done. We had the final meeting in the courthouse. It was an old courthouse in St. Louis, a big old building. We were meeting in the jury room and reviewing the final details of the settlement. They had just come back from gain their clients’ consent to these details. The primary election was going to be held in September and the general election in November. At the election in November they would vote for the new city council. Just as it looked like everything was set, Herb Eastman, a very soft spoken civil rights lawyer, looked across the table at his fellow lawyers and said, "I don’t see why we have to wait until September for the primary and the general election in November. Why can’t we have the primary in August and elect the city council in September?” Here’s a case that had been unresolved for twenty years and he wanted to move it up a month! Jack Freirich. the lead lawyer for the city, was about 6'4'’ and weighed about 250 pounds. He stood up, pounded his fist on the table and his face turned red as he said, "What! You want me to go back to my client after we have finally convinced them to resolve this and ask them to move the primary one month?” I could see the whole deal falling apart. Herb Eastman cowered and said nothing. I was with Gus Gaynett, my co-mediator, and Gus turned red and said, "What are you guys doing?” I said, "Wait a second.” I pointed to Herb and Harvey Grossman, who was his colleague (Harvey is now the general council for the ACLU in Chicago) and asked them to step outside into the courtroom for a minute. Jack Freirich was just beside himself. He said, "Damn! I don’t know what these guys are doing. ” I let him vent. He was going to vent whatever I tried to do. So he vented and I listened. "Yes, I understand, I can see why, I don’t know, I’ll tell you what Jack, just wait here a minute will you?” Gus waited with them and I walked out to the courtroom. I walked over to Herb and asked What’s going on?” He said, "It’s okay. We can go back now?” I asked, "What do you mean we can go back now?” He said, "You know Hattie (one of the six plaintiffs) is 85 years old. She has never been able to vote for a black city councilman in her entire life. She’s getting old and I thought I owed it to her to make this happen just as soon as possible.” I gave it a try. We can go back now. So we went back in and the city’s lawyers didn’t know what was going to happen. Harvey and Herb sat down quietly and I said, "Herb?” and he said, "We can continue with the original election date. It is okay.” We very cautiously proceeded and soon had wrapped up that agreement. As we left the lawyers looked at me and said, "You’re terrific. I don’t know what you did, but you’re a genius.” I had done nothing but just go with the flow.




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The challenge from the minority community and the minority students’ perspective, was that they didn't see any value or benefit in working directly with the administration. They felt the administration was not trustworthy, the administration wasn't interested in doing anything to be helpful, so, "What good is it going to be to even engage in that process?” So again, what's in their best interest? What can I say to them to convince them it's worth engaging in the process? And one important thing is whatever we do is not going to diminish your right or privilege in the future to take some other action. It's not going to cost you anything in terms of legal recourse, it's not going to cost you anything in terms of any other response you want to make. The other is that we do bring twenty years, thirty years of experience to this and maybe we can help bring a different outcome. The other kind of stark awareness for them was, is this institution so bad that it should be destroyed?

Question:
This institution, meaning the fraternity, or the university?

Answer:
The university.

Question:
Was that a concern of the minority community?

Answer:
Well, it was my ultimate response to them not wanting to involve themselves with the administration because the administration wasn't trustworthy. And again my task at that point was to help them see that the administration, regardless of what they thought about them, had a legitimate position. Everybody has a legitimacy. And unless the institution is in such grave violation that it needs to be destroyed, you have to honor that the institution has a position. It will try to protect that position and part of that protection involves their regents and the people that fund them. Everything that impacts the administration has to have legitimacy and if you discount that, then you aren't going to come to the table from a reality perspective. Unless it's so bad you need to wipe it out and start over. So if you agree it has legitimacy, you have to at least honor its reality, and its reality is all of these parties and constituencies out here. So that helped them come to the table with a little more reality about what was going to happen.




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

So it's a matter of keeping the group that they're boycotting sensitive and really giving them a way to save face and come to the table. That's probably the biggest challenge. Q - How do you do that? A - Using their public interests, and good will. "You know, you may even shut this plant down, but what's it going to look like to the national community when it becomes public knowledge?” You can gain a lot from interfacing and having somebody like me in there, giving them a way of coming to the table without saying, "You're right." Again, it's the very same discussion. If they feel like you're not sensitive to their needs for education and you're just taking advantage of them as workers and they're wanting you to institute GED programs, what's it going to cost you to do that? What do you gain from it? And you've got to figure out a way for it to be in their self interest to do it. And I would sometimes do research on other companies that had done stuff like that. I would bring information to them and say, "This is what happened to production. Production went up." So they gain more. The organization gained more from that than they lost. We did a really long mediation with Levi Strauss one time. They were closing a plant in San Antonio. The community's perception about who they are as an organization was very important to them, so they weren't difficult to bring around. Generally, it becomes an ego thing and both sides become entrenched. So then you've got to figure out a way to let them save face and come out of that entrenched position. If there's no potential for a long-term relationship, it's probably not ever going to settle, short of both groups being destroyed, economically or whatever. These people lose their jobs, these people lose the plant. But you try to find a place where you can bring them to a joint, mutually beneficial goal. Save the plant, save our jobs, but get some of our needs met. Also give them that place where they can stay safe. "Yeah, I understand how they feel, but we didn't do anything wrong." And it’s really as simple as that sometimes. Q - Now how do you save face if the one side is steadfastly refusing to negotiate? It seems like just the act of sitting down at the table, in a sense, is losing face. Because then they're saying, "Well, I was wrong before, I guess I will talk to you." A - Yes. But, you have to get them to a point where it's in their interest to come to the table. You have to come up with some reason. For example, in the community where the Iranian students were. Everybody I talked to, from the officials side, did not feel there was a problem. Not until I was able to point out that there was an economic reality. If I hadn't thought about that, I'm not sure that we'd have done anything except try to bring some referrals for the students in terms of getting some legal redress. There was some misunderstanding about what the US law's limitations and realities were. The Iranian students were expecting some things from the local police that they couldn't deliver. So that was a part of the dynamics then, the education. We also found out that the high school students didn't have a clear understanding of what law enforcement limits and responsibilities were. So we did some orientation with them as well as the Iranian students and the college students. Without some personal interest, they're not going to come to the table. Your job is to find out what's in their interest and try to point that out.



Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

You actually get the idea of what the interests and issues are of one side. Then, do you go to the other side and say, "This is what they are thinking?"

Answer:
No, no. I don't ever do that. I let them do that at the table, I just try to find out what their interests and needs are and where the flexibility is. Sometimes I might ask some "what if" questions. What is your reaction to this concept and what do you need in this and so on. But I don't try to become a messenger for the parties. On the contrary, I avoid that. Even if we're in a mediation session and we're at the table, you always make sure there's a room for caucuses. If I caucus with one party or the other, before we go back into the room, one of things I make sure is determined is, "Okay, which of you is going to bring this back to the table, because I shouldn't be the person." I am strictly seen as the mediator, rather than a messenger for either party. So I make a specific, conscious effort to not become the messenger. The closest thing to being a messenger might be if there is, in fact, a proposal made and I try to estimate what their reaction would be. I would say, "I don't know, but let me check, okay?" Then, even if I am not sure if that's going to work, I try not to actually deliver the message per se.




Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

When the minority community is organized around perceived injustices and they make demands do you do anything to reach out to majority groups that might feel they would be adversely affected by the demands of the minority community?

Answer:
Probably in most of our cases the ones that are most directly affected would be police unions in some of the police-community type conflicts. Sometimes they have come back and raised questions about what has not occurred. In fact, that's one of our initiatives right now. Related to police-community relations, we are trying to bring about a partnership between police chiefs, the union and the community. We really believe that the union should be at the table. In a lot of places the unions and the chiefs are still in such a state of conflict that they don't want to get together. But for real progress to take place we strongly believe that the unions and the chiefs have to be working together, especially related to race relations. They can have differences about some other types of things, but we've done several of these types of programs where we are urging the partnership through the proactive process. I can't say that we ever had a mediation case -- this region hasn't had one -- in which the unions are a party along with the chief in the mediation process. Hopefully in the future there will be.






Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Tell me what you think about the debate between transformative mediation, as they describe it, and the problem solving approaches.

Answer:
What I was trained in and learned from CRS was very transformational, in terms of relationships. That was the highest goal and that's why if you get institutional change that's great. If you can transform relationships that's incredible. But there's a very directive process for implementing the mediation process, the conciliation process, or the technical assistance. There are steps in the process to go through. Now, when I'd gone through orientation with them on the transformational I still don't buy into the whole idea of hands off as far as process is concerned. It's like finding the common interest or the personal interest that can get people to move on. If they could do that for themselves, they wouldn't need you. They wouldn't even be there, they'd be working it out. So, if you don't have a process in mind or a plan I'm not sure you're doing anything but refereeing and you're not supposed to do much of that. Now I think it's effective in highly relational situations where it's a family, an employee/supervisor, where that relationship is there. The transformative model is really a nurturing kind of guiding, keeping them focused on aspects of the issue. So in that context the purely transformational model may be most effective. Anytime you move to more complexity I'm not sure it would be effective in the pure sense. I think I have said to more parties than I could ever name, "I'm in charge of the process. If you're uncomfortable with that I need to know." What I have to offer you is the process, and it works. If we'll honor the process something good can come out of it for you. It's my job to make sure we honor the process.

Question:
Do you give them opportunities to tinker with it?

Answer:
Oh, I think from what I've said the dance is part of the tinkering. I'll go in different directions and I think one of the real challenges is to always be open to that. But if you know the process you can deviate from it. That's one of the things that I thought about with Folger, Bush and Folger is to be able to do that really well, with great integrity, you would have to be an incredible craftsman with the process. To be able to use it effectively you would have to have complete confidence in your abilities to use it. You can break rules if you understand what the rules are and why you're breaking them. It supercedes the benefit of the rule. But if you don't know that then you're just open to chaos. Now I'm not comfortable with that. I think in the role of the mediator there are some specific skills of process that give people a sense of hope. But it's not going to be a free for all. They've done that, they know how to do that. But there's going to be some structure and some process of dealing with issues that can bring healing and transformation.




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.






Edward Howden


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

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.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

A lot of times they don't understand, they might be in groups asking for things that somebody wants and then somebody wants something else within that group. So the officials don't know how to respond or have difficulty in knowing which group to listen to. What we offer is a clarification of the dispute and then through the clarification of issues and the presentation of issues in a programmed manner. The officials may not have much experience in negotiating in the street, but they know how to negotiate in a controlled setting. But maybe the protesting group may not have experience in negotiating in another setting like that, so we provide the setting where everybody's comfortable. Both parties understand that it's to their benefit to come together. There's all levels of groups, levels of sophistication, and levels of experience and sometimes they require very little of us. Sometimes it requires more preparation. I would say most groups are very sophisticated, so we just need to help them and they do it themselves.



Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Inmates were granted hearings if racism was alleged. There was some increased understanding of why the black residents were so loud when they came down the hall after their meetings. Have you ever walked by a black church on Sunday morning and heard the joyous singing? Well that’s another side of the coin to the pain, too. Some of this came out at the sessions. The American Indians’ need for solidarity came out when we talked about their issues. So good things happened.






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