I recently borrowed Barack Obama’s Book, “The Audacity of Hope” from my 80 year old father. I am intrigued by this articulate and engaging candidate–even though I meet every criteria to be a Hillary Clinton supporter (middle aged, professional, Caucasian woman). In the Chapter he calls “Values”, he talks about his mother’s simple principle–“How would that make you feel?” as a guidepost for his politics. Then he says, “It’s not a question we ask ourselves enough, I think; as a country, we seem to be suffering from an empathy deficit.” My own work as a mediator compels me to concur.
Lately, I have been mediating business disputes where employees urge fair treatment from their former employers, or a business deal gone sour demands recompense to make things right. On the other side, I see struggling business people and professionals who cannot afford the inflated demands made of them–even though they may have agreed to those terms (before the costs of litigation were added) in more economically favorable times. And I, standing “in the middle” can simply urge empathy. Obama says, “No one is exempt from the call to find common ground”. I am grateful that I listened to the call and act daily in an effort to bring mutual understanding and then action by those in conflict. It’s my own contribution towards addressing the Empathy Deficit Disorder from which our country may be suffering.
(Originally published in TRANSFORMATIVE MEDIATION: A SOURCEBOOK – RESOURCES FOR CONFLICT INTERVENTION PRACTITIONERS AND PROGRAMS” (J. P. Folger, R.A.B. Bush, & D. J. Della Noce, eds.), NY: Association for Conflict...By Dan Simon