How’s that for a clickbait title?
I’ve written about The Beatles and the five classic conflict response styles. And in our trainings, we correlate these styles to various animals. But you can never have too many belabored metaphors, so let’s try it out with cutlery.
The fork is the competitor of your kitchen drawer. With its spiky tines, it assertively digs into whatever it darn well pleases. Villagers tormented Frankenstein’s monster with pitchforks. Krakens and sea serpents regularly found themselves on the business of Neptune’s trident.
The spoon is our flatware accommodator. It scoops up whatever liquid or semi-viscous substance that’s in its path. It goes with the flow. What is an oar, if not a big-ass spoon?
Chopsticks, in my troglodyte hands, are the avoider. While billions use them with grace and Mr. Miyagi catches flies with them, in my paws chopsticks avoid anything smaller than an ice-cube sized hunk of moo goo gai pan.
The knife, though stabby and weaponizable, is our compromiser: it divides things up, slicing the pie so everyone gets a taste.
Our collaborator? The spork. An elegant and creative tool that is more than the sum of its parts, allowing you to do whatever you need to do with your food…scoop, slice, poke, you name it. The spork has yet to earn its rightful place in the flatware pantheon — not unlike how mediation is not yet the movement it deserve to be.
May the spork be with you.
Update: I just heard that KFC discontinued sporks. Not cool.
For you lawyerly types, this week is the New York State Bar Association’s Annual Meeting, which will feature sessions on the future of mediation. I’m curating the drawings I’ll use for a illustrated panel spiel on Resuscitating Mediation.
Good mediators make it look easy…empathetically holding the space in the midst of high emotions and a dizzying amount of information. Underneath that calm and compassionate countenance, mediators are charged with maintaining neutrality, honoring the process, and deploying all kinds of skills that allow parties to hear each other, and find their own ways to move forward.
Editor: Swans in fact have feet and not tentacles. You’re confusing them with octopuses.
Author’s response: What do you know about swans? And it’s octopi, dude.
Editor: Both are acceptable, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Author: Good day, sir.
Author: I SAID GOOD DAY SIR.
Editor: Um, mediation?
“We must develop and maintain the power to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power of love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
–Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
If you don’t like puns, ridiculous visuals and games, by all means DO NOT TAKE OUR TRAININGS. Otherwise, learn about becoming a peacebuilder with us here.
All of us are so much more than our worst selves. Thanks for showing the amazing complexity of the human condition in your work, good sir.
Tom Jones — the Welsh Elvis — has been singing “It’s Not Unusual” for decades, whilst being pelted by women’s undergarments.
“It’s not unusual” is a great mediation phrase. It can help us normalize difficult situations, and help separate the person from the problem, à la Fisher and Ury in Getting to Yes.
“It’s not unusual in a city as loud and crowded as ours for neighbors to have issues with noise.”
“It’s not unusual for a couple who’ve been together as long as you have to challenges communicating”
Of course, we want to avoid minimizing our clients’ issues. We don’t want to say or imply that their situation is no big deal, nor do we want to compromise our neutrality. The subtext of the above examples shouldn’t be “New York is loud — deal with it, chump” or “Yeah, nagging is part of relationships — take my wife…please”
Like all mediation tactics, we need to proceed with caution. “I know how you feel” (or worse, “I know exactly how you feel.”) may be a well-intentioned statement designed to normalize the emotions of someone in pain. But we never really, really know how someone feels, no matter how empathetic we are.
If you’re having a hard time getting the song out of your head, my work here is done. If not, hopefully this‘ll do the trick.
drawing by yours truly.