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The Wizard of Us

When the mediator, the parties, the elephant in the room and the secret under the table come together anything is possible, including a ‘collaborative’ and ‘durable’ agreement against the odds! What prevents this ‘natural unfolding’ of the Wizard of Us is lack of attention to all elements in the room. Solutions involve attention to a creative antenna that picks up all aspects simultaneously and calls the shots! For example:

A 3 year old unpaid loan for a goodly amount of cash was on the table between two ‘30 something’ former lovers in a time sensitive small claims mediation. The plaintiff was a pretty, sharp cookie kind of gal who was flexing her muscles against the odds. The defendant was a tall, handsome Don Juan kind of guy who -it was later revealed- had just been released from a 3 year ‘all expenses paid’ stay in jail. He denied owing the plaintiff a single cent. “You do and you know it!” said the plaintiff. “I don’t and how are you going to prove it?” said the defendant. The elephant trumpeted. “I have my ways.” she replied. The secret squealed.

“The secret under the table is lifting the elephant on top of it!” stated the mediator. The secret and the elephant giggled. Both parties looked startled then giggled too and glanced knowingly at each other, “There were illegal transactions around the money issues between us.” said the plaintiff. The secret shrank in horror! The mediator told both parties that while the mediation was confidential, best they be mindful what they disclose. Given this atmosphere a caucus was called; an unusual event in small claims mediations at this court!

In caucus with the plaintiff, the issue revealed was not about money but about feeling abandoned by the defendant during his ‘hiatus’ and further rejection by him upon his release. The elephant sighed! She held firmly to her position about being owed money and wanting it back and stated clearly that she had cleaned up her act from illegal activities. The secret wiggled. The mediator suggested that she consider ‘cutting a deal’ with the defendant that they could both live with and call it quits! They discussed a possible deal and how she would present it to the defendant.

In caucus with the defendant, the issue revealed was about money and that he believed the plaintiff didn’t have a leg to stand on in claiming it. “Don’t be too sure,” whispered the secret. “Are you sure about that?” asked the mediator. The defendant wiggled too, and then stated that he wanted the plaintiff off his back and that he had cleaned up his act from illegal activities. “Good idea on all accounts.” whispered the elephant. The mediator said that if they didn’t ‘cut a deal’ in writing that day the claim would be set to go before the judge and asked if the defendant would want to go to court again, given his past record! “Preferably not!” said the defendant. They discussed an amount he could live with, without him ever admitting he owed the plaintiff a cent!

Upon returning all together the plaintiff said that she would accept x. The defendant said, “No way” and that he didn’t have “two beans on toast’ since his release from jail. The elephant nodded at this reality check! “Could you agree to make payments beginning in three months?” suggested the mediator. “No way since I don’t know what lies ahead,” said the plaintiff. The Wizard of Us, in an effort to keep the plaintiff out of jail for a win win situation and a possible solution, asked, “How was jail? Food okay? No bills, free clothes, movie, parties?” The elephant and the secret chuckled. “No way, jail again” said the defendant, adamantly.

How could ‘the way’ to a win-win agreement possibly open in this seemingly impossible situation? A way suddenly opened when the defendant declared that he would pay the plaintiff x in x amount of time and the plaintiff agreed. The elephant that was heard and the secret that was never fully revealed whispered, “It is time for a party!”

The Wizard of Us is the antenna for, and ‘the way’ to a collaborative agreement! What a ‘hoot’ it would be if the Wizard of Us that recognized and empowered the elephant and the secret, could create honest agreements through ‘reality checks’ in corporate and international negotiations!


Ana Schofield

In 2001, Ana Schofield began a Master's degree in Conflict Resolution via Antioch University McGregor in Yellow Springs, Ohio and graduated in 2003. During this time, she became certified as a mediator. Now Ana weaves her work experience together as she maintains a private practice in Olympia, Washington that offers creative… MORE >

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