Thursday, March 15, 2007

Resistance is futile: a new look at ground rules in mediation

Go with the flowAs a mediator, when it comes to ground rules, what's your style? Are you a mediation cop who lays down and enforces rules for parties to follow? Or are you a Zen master who responds in the moment to enable parties to generate their own rules of engagement?

My friend Ericka Gray, a leader in the dispute resolution field who has been mediating for more years than she would like me to tell you, has written an article that may convince mediation cops to turn in their badges and try a more nuanced approach in "Resistance Is Futile: Going with the Flow", published at

Ericka draws on Lao Tzu for inspiration, along with good old common sense and some real-life anecdotes. Ericka says,

In the spirit of T'ai Chi, meeting challenges with resistance leads only to some degree of injury to both sides. In mediation, this may take the shape of meeting positions with positions or establishing positions (ground rules) at the beginning of the process in order to try to exert some control by the mediator. Lao-Tzu’s prescription of meeting such hardness and force with softness, following the motion and redirecting, could easily have been written for mediation students.
Now stop resisting and go read the article, Grasshopper.