We are living in interesting times here in America. It is the first time in my lifetime that I can recall a conscious effort to keep my politics and views on issues of ethics and morality to myself–rather than risk making enemies of those whom I trusted to be friends. The stridency of the discourse seen across social media, television news and the press is sometimes beyond comprehension, and almost certainly unprecedented. One can no longer assume that being educated in the same field, living and working in the same community or having similar life experiences leads people to holding similar values or beliefs in the future of our country or how to fix what’s broken in our world.
In mediation, I can say that suspending “judgment” by approaching each dispute with civility and an open-mind is without question, the best recipe for resolving civil disputes. If we can tone down the rhetoric and begin with a friendly handshake and communication of a sincere and encouraging word about resolving the differences through dialogue, compromising, perspective taking and a series of concessions designed to get to an end place that is preferable to continuing the conflict, perhaps we mediators, and those who come before us, can shine a light onto further public discourse as well. It’s hard and it takes practice and courage, but in the end, may be our only choice if we are to preserve and even improve this democracy into the 21st century.
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