From the Blog of Phyllis G. Pollack.
Often, during the process of resolving a dispute, the parties (if not also the mediator) fail to take into account the age of the parties. In an article entitled: “It seems all those birthdays may be making you happy” by Judy Foreman in the Health Section of the Los Angeles Times, July 16, 2007, the author notes that “many people do indeed mellow with age.” (Id.)
The article focuses on a study conducted in Australia which was published last summer. The researchers found that the
“amygdala – a deep brain center for processing raw feelings especially fear – becomes less reactive to fearful stimuli between the middle and older years while a higher brain center, the medial prefrontal cortex, which governs planning and judgment, gets more active during that same period.” (Id.)
Consequently, older people “are less bothered by things.” This age group focuses more on positive emotions than negative ones. They focus more on quality of life, attaining a “better sense of comfort with oneself and the world.” (Id.)
In short, older persons “focus on what’s really important. . . while discarding things that are less personally meaningful.” (Id.)
Relating this to resolving a dispute, an older party may well be more “mellow” about it: the “principles” involved may not be as important because of other life issues. The older party may tend to be more forgiving, more sanguine and more willing to reach a compromise, secure in the knowledge that “this, too, shall pass.” Focusing on the quality of life rather than the minutiae of life, the older party may be more willing to put the dispute behind her and move on to the “more important” issues in life.
Contrast this attitude with a young person who seemingly “has everything to look forward to, and everything to gain or lose.” (Id.) The young person still has much to fear; the older person does not for she has already succeeded in many ways. This clash of attitudes, on the surface, may appear to lead to an unresolvable dispute or impasse. But, chances are, this “clash” will be resolved, precisely because the older party has, indeed, mellowed, finding the whole dispute to be unimportant. That is, as a result of the positive emotions of the older person, the matter will get settled.
So. . . consider the age of the parties involved in your next dispute. It plays a very important, if, indeed, unconscious role in how they approach the dispute and their willingness and amenability to compromise.
. . . Just something to think about.
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