The Language We Use…

In looking through some of the blogs I follow, I came across this post that talks about the misunderstandings that can happen in mediation.  Have you ever had that happen in a class, mediation or a dispute resolution?  Maybe in just a conversation?

My guess is you have.

Even if you haven’t, ever notice how many conflicts, big or small happen because one person says one thing and the other hears something else?  Recently that’s exactly what happened between me and my eldest daughter.

Years ago, I did a year of law school and though I didn’t stick with it, (as it really wasn’t for me) the best lesson I learned was in the Contracts  I class.   The professor said “…words to a lawyer are like scalpels to a surgeon, they are the tools that we use…”

Now, as I learn more about mediation in my program and begin to practice with my internship with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission I understand the power of what that professor mentioned all those years ago.  And how it applies to the whole field of  Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Sure a quick search of the web can pull up articles like this one that cover the write-ups of mediation language.  But I’m talking more about what happens during a mediation, orally and aurally.

And of course there’s the field of non-verbal communications that can tell you a lot, like this article mentions.

So let me ask this – when you communicate, have a conversation, do you consider how you’re communicating?  Not just the content, but what journalists call the mode of communication?

I never did, not really, not until I took a class here at Columbia called “Intrapersonal Dynamics and Conflict” taught by Barry Sommer.  It opened my eyes to the issue of language in communications, and drove home the point my Contracts professor made.

Practicing all this is harder than you think, and can be a distraction from what you’re trying to say.    But when I help with a mediation it’s always in the back of my mind.

So what do I do if I suspect I’m reaching a sensitive point in negotiations?

I pause, I slow down the speed of my talking so I can think ahead as I talk.  And so far that has cut way down on the misinterpretations and miss-communications.

Like most skills, I find that practicing this verbal awareness helps make it more automatic.  Personally, I never want it to become automatic to the point of learned behavior, like driving.  But the more I think about the mode and method of my speech the easier it becomes.  And the less damage control I have to do after the fact.

But I know I have a long way to go to master this skill set.

What do you think?


Super Typhoon Hiayan — Death, Misery and Conflicts to Follow

The rising deaths and incredible suffering stemming from Typhoon Hiayan has me thinking of the aftermath.  Sure there is a lot of work to be done, and certainly the humanitarian issues will continue to mount with so much death, loss and much of the Philippine infrastructure is destroyed.

But what about after the instant emergency slows and the recovery efforts become a slog and shift into a long-term grind?  With constricted resources one study suggests that conflict will increase, that rapid onset disasters like this typhoon contribute to conflict more than anything else.  It goes on to say that there’s a chance for more sweeping peace-building as long-term recovery efforts continue.  But that these chances for peace-building don’t override what is happening.

So I wonder how to carry out these chances?  Does one wait?  how long?

Until people are in conflict over needs like water, food and shelter?  Or is there a way to structure recovery aid to take advantage of the chance and really build peace?

At the moment no one can argue that instant needs have to be addressed, with several groups like this taking the lead.  Perhaps there’s a chance for peace-building in later stages through economic development as they rebuild and recover?

What about UN departments like this who don’t even mention the Crisis on the homepage (as of this writing)?

With all my conflict resolution training and growing skills (thanks to the NECR Program) I worry about the practical application of these skills.  When people are dead, dying, sick, suffering, needing basics to survive, it can be overwhelming for the Conflict Resolution (CR) practitioner.

What do you think?

Education — a great way to fight poverty

I was surfing through the web and came across this statement that was pretty thought provoking.  According the to the World Bank, there are some 57-million children worldwide who don’t go to school.  And even those that do don’t seem to have the skills they need.

With two girls of my own I know I am determined to find them the best education, to get them the skills they need to be able to function in society, and also in the world economy.  So reading about how more and more skilled labor is required, or will be in the future, and how there are plans out there to really help those children who don’t have access to adequate education was eye opening.  It’s education for an entire planet.

Seems pretty ambitious right?

It is.

But there a groups that are trying to address this issue in smaller ways and even just to get the conversation going.  Take this upcoming event at Columbia, for example, it’s a symposium where the public can hear ideas on how we can promote education for the planet.  (It’s November 2oth at 5:30 and the link above says).  It’s run by the Morton Deutsch International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution.

But taking on the world’s educational issues is a more than daunting task, so where to start?  One place is this website that gives a breakdown of education initiatives by country.  Some are finished like Canada, Turkey and Finland, others like the US and Russia are not.  Still it’s a good jumping off place to see just what the state of education is.

It’s a positive thing to be educating our kids, preparing them for their tomorrows, but with articles like this it seems like we’re sometimes going backwards.

What do you think?

Here we go!

Welcome to the launch of the NECRblog!

As you can see in the “About” page — this blog is attached to the NECR (Negotiation and Conflict Resolution) program here at Columbia University.

I hope to start conversations between any and all who are interested in the topics of Peace Studies, not only on campus, or even in New York, but across the field.

So let me start by asking just a few questions….

Why are you here?  No, not in the metaphysical sense, (I leave that to the Philosophy Department) but on this page?What do you hope to see or gain from this blog?

You see personally, I hope to do two main things, expand the conversations surrounding Peace Studies, Conflict and Alternative Dispute Resolution, and to learn from the comments, events and other things that we will see here.

To get that going — there will soon be links to other websites that blogs that might of be interest.  So why not check them out and see what you think?

Then you can can come back here and share!

Interested in who am I?  check out the “About” page to learn more about me and where this blog might be headed.

As with everything on this site, feel free to comment, reflect on and yes even grouse about what you see here.

It’s all part of the process of NECR!