What do you think has been your greatest strength as a civil rights mediator?


Julian Klugman


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
What would you say is your greatest strength to do the kind of work you did at CRS?

Answer:
You have to be true to yourself and use what you're comfortable with. Styles are different. Some people will respond to you, some people won't. There are people who dislike me on sight, and there are people I can't stand on sight. That's part of it. You have to deal with that. But if you're a pro, you don't really care. You're there to do a job and you do it. You get past that. So, entry I think, is overrated, although you can deal with it through references and stuff like that. I'm here to do a job, I'm here to help you. Can I help you?

Question:
What would you say is your greatest strength?

Answer:
I learned to listen. That was a big problem for me because I tended not to. I do hear and I do react to people. I don't always stop and tell you I have, but I do know how you're feeling. I may not probe on it or get into it, but I do look at people's faces. I can read fast and I understand what I'm hearing. That's one of my big strengths. The negative is I'm compulsive. I'm movement oriented. I believe in the process, I really believe in democracy. I think that came out of community work. I really believe that the people, when informed, can make intelligent decisions. That's one of the reasons I'm very concerned about the media. I don't believe it's all going to be settled through the Internet. I guess I'm a humanitarian, in the sense that since I've worked with, and for, people of color most of my life, I had to learn to understand people of color. Very few white people were in my position and have to do that. Also, I think I understand my prejudices. I learned, I think, people are pretty much people whether you're white, black, or Hispanic. I'm not saying I'm color blind. There's big differences between people and how they're brought up and how we react to them because of the color of their skin and so on. But there's a lot of similarities between people and we're human beings.




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

What would you see as your greatest strength?

Answer:
A good mediator is a person who is patient, who is willing to develop skills that would -- maybe not endear himself to people, but at least earn the trust and respect of both sides. If you can do that, you may be on your way to being successful. This is true in any area of mediation. You have to be able to notice. I'm not so much concerned about all these technical things about how you get people to "come to yes". A good mediator has to help the parties begin to explore many different possibilities of how something could be. If they're willing to explore that and walking down the road from that point of view, then you have a possible chance of being able to get them to relate to one another. And once that's done, you may have a chance of everybody "coming to yes", as people often talk about. Anyway, that's what I think being a good mediator is.

Question:
If you had to identify your greatest strength as a mediator, what would it have been?

Answer:
Well, number one, I was a hard worker. And that was my great strength. I would work so hard sometimes that they would have to tell me, "Hey, lighten up, take off from this." I know my boss would often have to ask me, "Hey, when are you going to put that down? When are you going to leave this office at night?" Sometimes I think it was because I wanted to make sure that something was left there and something was going to be there even after it was over with.




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

In terms of mediation, you would need an absolute commitment to the belief that people really can be empowered to solve their own problems. My best skill is to facilitate that. Being a good listener is important. You don't know the tune if you don't listen. If you don't listen to them, both emotionally and verbally, then you don't know what dance to start with. If you can't empathize with people, with integrity, I don't think you can be a good mediator. Again, it doesn't mean that I agree with what your saying, but with genuineness, I can say that I understand. That's where the trust comes from, when people can hear me and trust that I really do understand. That in itself diffuses the potential for violence more than anything. Just the fact that they've been heard and understood. By anybody.

Question:
Even by somebody who can't do something?

Answer:
Yeah. It's an incredible gift to people to be able to truly understand what they're feeling. "I understand what you're saying. I understand you're hurt. I understand where you're coming from." How can they trust me to communicate in parties if they can't see in me some empathy for their position.

Question:
What would you say are your greatest skills?

Answer:
I guess my consuming passion for fairness and justice. Flexibility to work with any kind of group, whether it's a president of an institution or a major company, or a street person, and feel very comfortable. I think I've been able to communicate respect for people regardless of their position. I've also been able to communicate that I'm not intimidated by anybody while still being respectful. I think that's a gift, part of who I am, my personality. I have a really gifted ability to process and think quickly, and that's been one of the way's I've gained entry when I might not have come up with a quick response that's right on target. That's a gift. A good example of that, which I've been able to share when training mediators, was a sheriff who really didn't want to talk to me. When we went into his office, I just sat down in the chair assuming he would go sit at his desk. But instead, he stood right beside me against the wall, and there I was already seated. My mind is whirling because one of my principles is, you diminish no one. So if I diminish him or try to put him down, he's not going to talk to me and hes certainly not going to respect me. But if I let him get away with this, he's not going to respect me. When I say diminish no one, I mean me also. I said to him, "Sheriff, do you have problems with your back?" He said, "Well no. Why?" I said, "Well, you're standing," and as I said that I stood up. If you have a problem with your back I'll stand with you." "Oh no, no. It's fine." He went over and sat down. He knew that I knew what he was doing. But I did it in a way that allowed him to save face. He was able to get out of it, but he also respected me for not letting him get away with it. We had a good conversation. I think that was one of my greatest gifts, was to be able to do that in a way that didn't diminish him, but also commanded respect.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

How about in your case? What do you think you bring to it?

Answer:
Me personally? I guess I value my ability to listen and my sincerity. I used to be a teacher and I've have often said and what I hear all the time is, "They don't care." You don't even have to do a good job; you just have to be sincere and trying to do the best you can. If you bring that and they feel and see that they'll go with you. I think I bring that sincerity. I pride myself on being a good listener. I pride myself on being able to convey my thoughts to others -- I think there is a level of being able to articulate a fair and honest picture of what you're seeing and hearing. I guess that's what I bring. It's very common sense. There is nothing magical about this. Maybe a good way to sum up all these thoughts is "good people skills."






Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
What do you think your greatest strength is?

Answer:
Getting people together. That's really my greatest strength. Bringing people together, helping them to reach some willingness to get together with the other group.

Question:
Do you have any special techniques you can share with us that might be helpful?

Answer:
Coming in and working with them in such a way that you indicate to them that you know a hell of a lot about what it is that is happening. Show them that you can share a lot of your experiences that parallels what they're dealing with. That's probably one of the good things. The other one, of course, is being able to talk with them. Being able to listen to them. I mean sitting down and saying, "Okay, I want to hear you." Or coming up with something that he or she wasn't talking about, it wasn't important to them, but if you don't understand what they're talking about, being able to reflect it back to them and say, "Is this what you're saying?" or, "If I understand you correctly..." Go through all that and make them feel like you're not attacking them. So you could do that and show them that you're interested and you do that by, "Okay, I don't understand you right now, but maybe you can help me get to the point that you want me to get to." Be punctual. If you say you're going to be there, be there. Don't join the gang if you're dealing with a group of hard-to-reach types, don't become one of them. When I say hard-to-reach types, you're dealing with a group of gang kids. Don't start doing that dance with them because they're going to put you down immediately. We had one mediator who was actually passed a wine bottle, and the moment he took that drink, he became one of them.

Question:
So you break bread with people, but you don't have alcohol.

Answer:
Well not in a case like that, because that's the gang thing. You may have a good point there, if I get you. When it comes down to it, they're offering you something and in your education you know you don't over-identify with the people that you're dealing with. Therefore, you don't accept the drink and if they're drinking in the park and they've done this for years and you drink, then you're just saying that it's okay to break the law. It goes on and on.




Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

What do you consider to be your greatest strength as a mediator while you were in CRS?

Answer:
I think my ability to easily gain trust. I've been told that I have an honest face and I suspect that some people see that and I'm able to follow that with my own commitment to be of service to them.




Bob Hughes


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

What do you think is your best attribute that makes you, or made you, an effective mediator?

Answer:
Stubbornness, focus, staying with it until we got it finished, not letting people give up. That's an attribute. I don't know how central that would be, but it helps. You're stubborn and unwilling to let your pride be eroded by failure.




Manuel Salinas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
What do you think is your greatest strength as a civil rights mediator?

Answer:
I think, perhaps, in moving a group toward some goal. But in so doing, providing as much information as possible, because I know where to go as that would help the group move forward. I seem to know the ins and outs of government, I have some strengths there, and I think that's where my strength lies, because I know where to go.




Ozell Sutton


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
So what would you say is your greatest strength as a mediator?

Answer:
My greatest strength, I believe, is my own flexibility to move from one point to another with great ease. My ability to become incensed, and then on the other hand be cooperative and contributive. But the best ability I have is a good knowledge of what can be done and where it has been done, and how it has been done. And an ability to move between those points. I'm the kind of person you cannot insult. If people want to vent on me, then that's better than venting on one another. So I sometimes not only let you vent on me, but I generate a venting on me. You see what I mean?




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Can you think of anything else that you've done that was especially interesting or important that we haven't discussed? Another category of issues perhaps?

Answer:
Personally, I really value being able to create models and forms. They gave me the time to do that. The lending thing -- at first blush, it doesn't sound very exciting. But it was really exciting for me to get into that and see the law has changed. But when I got into that, I realized the Community Reinvestment Act allowed the banks to be the monitors. The only way the bank got involved was if there was a complaint from the community. I said, "Okay, how does the community complain?" "Well, the banks have to let them know how to complain." "So the bank is supposed to tell the community how to complain against the bank? I don't think so." And that was interesting. It was interesting to discover that little glitch. The next Community Reinvestment Act legislation became more pro-active. Now the banks have to show results, because before all they had to do was show intent. Now they had to show results, and they didn't have to show results before. Those kinds of things were kinds of things that I really enjoyed getting into and being a part of for people.






Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

what are your strengths, your greatest skills and strengths as a civil rights activist?

Answer:
Number one: being truthful about what you can and what you cannot do. The second is being honest. The third thing is spending as much time as it takes. I mean just don't rush in and rush out. Spend as much time as it takes with the minority community. I have been in places where people still have dirt floors. They have burlap bags as partitions hanging from a string. I would see an old calendar there, and I'd walk up and I'd say, "You know this is beautiful. Where did you get it? How long have you had it?" Find something complimentary to say about it. They offer you a glass of water that's probably drawn from a well out of a jelly glass. Sip it. Don't stand up. If a child comes up to you with dirty hands, jelly or peanut butter you don't move away, let that child touch you. You understand what I'm saying? Find something complimentary to say to them. With white business people, be on time, be prepared, and don't flinch when you hear the "N" word. Some of them are going to apologize or say I'm sorry. Don't respond. Oh yes, even today, 1999, they're going to use it. Another thing is, don't accept any of their small gratuities. If we're in a room like this and there are cokes here that's one thing. But don't let them take you out and buy you a coke, or buy you a dinner or anything else. Be on your own. Don't let them try to move you away from the reason why you're there. There has to be a certain commitment in order to survive in a job such as this, but you have to know when the commitment ends and where it begins. Know your limitations. There's always somebody who knows a little bit more than you know. Everybody can contribute. That's been my strength, just recognizing that everybody is somebody and wants to be recognized. But if any credit is to be given, give it to the community or those individuals who have everything to lose and very little to gain. Spend time with them, just listening. Go to the churches and listen to these ministers. Sometimes go to their homes and sit there and look. Some of these places -- they defy description.







Copyright © 2000-2007
by Conflict Management Initiatives and the Conflict Information Consortium at the University of Colorado