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The Golden Sounds of Silence

Once you acquire some skill in mediation, I find one of the hardest things to master is keeping quiet when emotions erupt. Yes, anger, shouting, tears and bluster happen. Our job as mediators is to bring peace and calm into the room, but I find one of the challenges is to remain silent and still without reacting in a “fix it” mode. Eventually, the anger usually blows over once the steam has been let out.

I attended a Jewish funeral last week where the Rabbi reminded the huge gathering of friends and community that in those first few days following an unexpected and untimely death, the immediate family of the deceased needed silence more than verbal consoling. While they were comforted by the presence of their friends and family, they could not face the idle chit-chat in the first days following such a crisis.

This week, at our own dinner table, my adult children got into a squabble and one of them stormed out in anger. This is mainly troubling because all of us will be together at a family gathering this weekend and of course, next week for the Thanksgiving holiday. While I desperately wanted to find a way to intervene and bring peace into our dining room again, it was simply not the time to silence their very emotional outbursts before they were fully ready to vent and allow the cool breeze to take over the heat of the argument.

Like a good and patient mediator, I simply need to wait it out and hope that by exploding in anger, my sons will allow the argument to “boil over” before they cool down and return to a more reasonable tone of conversation. On this week before Thanksgiving, I wonder if others have great strategies for allowing emotions to erupt and staying silent in the face of crises?


Jan Frankel Schau

Attorney Jan Frankel Schau is a highly skilled neutral, engaged in full-time dispute resolution. Following a successful career spanning two decades in litigation, she has mediated over 700 cases for satisfied clients. Ms. Schau understands the nuances of trial and settlement practice as well as client relations and balancing the… MORE >

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