Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Willingness to Disagree

One of my mentors, Gary Friedman, lists four criteria that you need to mediate:

- the motivation to mediate
- self-responsibility
- the willingness to agree
- the willingness to disagree

(A Guide to Divorce Mediation: How to Reach a Fair Legal Settlement at a Fraction of the Cost. NY: Workman Publishing, 1993)

These criteria apply to the collaborative practice, too.

In my next few posts, I will explore the four criteria, starting with the last one.

"The willingness to disagree in a divorce?" you might think. "That sounds crazy!!" What's a divorce without a disagreement? If there is one thing people who are divorcing are really good at, it's disagreeing!! But the truth is, there's a difference between being angry at someone and stating your position. It's often easier to tell your friends and relations and maybe even the people at work how angry they are at your ex, than it is to sit down with the ex face-to-face.

Conflict is very difficult for people to live with. Many of us are inclined to walk away, or to give in, or to clam up rather than sit with the discomfort of conflict. But that is not being true to oneself. Nor is it really being honest and fair to your ex. Many times the best way to resolve a disagreement is to work it through. This involves a hard examination of your own thoughts and feelings as well as listening to those of your ex.

Mediation and collaborative process are not the place to sweep things under the rug. Nor is it the place to agree to something that will be detrimental later on, because there might not be another opportunity to come back and fix it.

And so I am reminded of this life advice offered by Shakespeare in Hamlet, in the voice of Polonius, speaking to his son Laertes:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

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