I don’t have a dispute for you this week; rather I have two experiences to share with you.
First, I attended a conference titled: Honoring Perspectives with Compassion, Resilience and Self-Reflection. The conference took place in the new, beautiful law school at the University of Utah and was attended by about 200 mediators and arbitrators. It is my honor to have shared a table with now retired Utah Supreme Court Justice Christine Durham and my dear friend, Sarah Behrens.
The speakers provided us with ideas, tools and inspiration to look at problems and obstacles and solutions from different perspectives. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? We all have heard and maybe used the phrase, “thinking outside of the box.” This process is different; it encourages us to look under the flap of the box, under the barcode, inside the corners, outside the corners and so forth. You get the picture.
This approach to problem solving is different than I have used as an attorney, which is, or should I say, was, in a nutshell: Tell me your problem, I will tell you how the law will resolve your problem for you.
As a mediator, my practice (before this conference) was to listen to the problem from everyone’s perspectives, and help the parties reach an agreement that fit within the four corners of the law.
Of note, the solution to your problem or obstacle was limited to solutions provided by the law. Solutions made to fit all. Which makes me think of clothes labeled one size fits all, which we all know is not true.
Going forward I will use tools and techniques I learned yesterday and that I will learn from further study, to help you redefine your problems or obstacles so that we can find unique solutions rather than one-size-fits-all solutions.
Here is an example of a unique solution to a great big problem that I read this morning: A man drove a too-tall truck under a bridge and got stuck, traffic was backed up, people were very upset. Emergency responders assessed the situation and called in civil engineers.
The experts’ discussion focused on whether it would be better to cut apart the truck or grind off part of the bridge. As the experts continued their discussion a little boy came along and said, “Why not just take the air out of the tires?” Which they did allowing the truck to drive under the bridge.
Second, my husband and I were traveling to New York to visit friends and family. Our connecting flight was in Chicago. While sitting at the departure gate I noticed an Orthodox Jewish gentleman with a long gray beard, dressed in black, wearing a tall, brimmed black hat, sitting in a wheelchair. Next to him was a gentleman, also in a wheelchair, dressed in clothing that led me to believe he was from India; he was accompanied by a woman who wore a bindi, (red dot) on her forehead.
As I looked around I saw a woman wearing a hijab (a veil worn by Muslim women) and a black woman wearing a big cross necklace and a priest wearing a collar. I assumed he was Catholic.
As I looked closer, I saw the seats at gate 14A departing from Chicago to Newark were filled not only with people of many religions, but also many colors, abilities and ethnic backgrounds sitting peacefully together. My husband aptly called it a potpourri of people. My thought: This is my America.