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Fear of Funny: A Mediator’s Guide to Losing It

What does conflict management have to do with comedy? A lot, it turns out. To be funny, to elevate another person (or, say, a large audience) one has to be present and very much in tune with the other. A merging of sorts takes place. A shift from pity to pathos takes place. A shift from separation to unification takes place. But before I get any more pedantic, let me say . . .that if I read one more how-to-mediate book, I think I’ll faint. More variables, more details, more rules. I know perfectly well already, that no matter how much I study and practice, I’ll never have all that information at my fingertips. More likely it’s in my foot, which was in my mouth instead.

Does this mean I quit? Never! Although some folks dare me to shut up now and then, I won’t quit trying to get it right. And recently, I’ve figured out a Super-Speed, Bionic Shortcut to do just that:

Comedy improvisation

Comedy Improvisation is a skill that will enhance your life 24/7. Yes, you’ll even sleep better. It’s not just comedy, and it’s not just improvisation, although if you want to split hairs, I’d say it’s more improvisation, although if you split it the other way, it’s not. Now where was I?

Of course there’s the hazing that inevitably occurs at the start. But you’re in control – the hazing is done by you, to you. It’s a form of humiliation that is unrivalled and quite refreshing. And it’s all you! Later, when this baggage has been aired and sorted, you’re an unflappable, stable and comforting influence wherever you go. Then you have the world to play with. Conflicts become sparkling beverages to be enjoyed with appetizing hors d’oeuvres (which you provide). Conflicts come at you — not with the alarming speed they did in one of your earlier lives; now they meander about at a comfortable rate and you handle them with grace, compassion and dignity.

Basic animal research tells us that if one is rewarded, one will often repeat a particular behavior. As a client senses how much fun you’re having, one is more likely to do what you’re doing. Grace, compassion and dignity feel good. Others catch on, and soon you find yourself in the midst of amity rather than hostility. What mediator would not relish this?

Comedy improvisation work takes your own battered and bruised inner self and distills it over time. You become a rare, single-origin … I mean, you become aware of your responses. Your speed in choosing more constructive responses increases exponentially. Likewise you become adept at seeing and acknowledging responses of others – before a situation nose-dives.

If this sounds miraculous, that’s because it is. And it takes years of practice, discipline, diligence, patience, and humility. But no problem. You’ve got what it takes. You’ve already demonstrated the ability to practice bad habits, discipline your pet or partner, diligently file your taxes on time, patiently wait at the check-out counter, and as for humility? Well, if you’ve mastered the others, it’s always fun to do something new.


Eva Zimet

Eva Zimet (JD, MFA, graduate certificate in conflict resolution) just today decided to devote her energy to never being angry again.  She decided that last week, too, but this week is different.  Other devotions include raising her four children and advancing communication and peaceful co-existence in the world. Eva does… MORE >

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