The courtroom is not always the best place to solve a problem. As a mediator in the small claims court in my county, I have witnessed seemingly impossible conflicts get resolved with very creative solutions when cases get booted out to mediation. It turns out that most cases can be solved outside of the courtroom if both parties are willing to hear each other out under the guidance of a great listener. The role of an effective mediator is to not tell the parties what to do, but to empower them to craft their own solution by moving from their positions (what each party wants) to interests (why they want it). Judges don’t take people’s emotions into consideration, but in mediation it always becomes crystal clear that strong emotions often make up the true foundation of most cases.
For today’s art exercise, please think of a conflict you might be dealing with in your life. Write it down at the top of the page. Below this, write or draw about the emotions and feelings you have attached to this conflict. Can you get the opposing party to do the same? These emotions with conflict often involve: pride, shame, jealousy, fear, anger, embarrassment, disappointment etc. Any of these ring a bell? While defending or hiding these emotions in a conflict, we can often get stuck in our “position” on the matter. Once we are more transparent with our interests, an opportunity for creative resolution can occur.
Now take your paper and draw a line dividing the rest of the paper down the middle. On one side, please write or draw about your position connected to your conflict, or WHAT you want connected to this problem. On the other side please write down your interests or WHY you want this resolved. Drawing rather than writing can be a powerful tool to identify complicated issues. Using symbols or metaphor to represent your issues might help you gain a better understanding of the situation. Even stick figures can pack a powerful punch when trying to express your inner thoughts and feelings.
( One example: A barking dog is driving a neighbor crazy. The dog owner doesn’t care about the neighbor and feels he has the right to let his dog do whatever it wants on his own property. This is his position he feels strongly about. Once he comes to mediation he learns that the neighbor is a soldier who recently returned from combat duty and is triggered by sounds such as barking dogs. With this new information, the dog owner softens on his position and shows empathy to the neighbor, thus allowing room for a creative resolution to the problem. This type of emotional exploration would not have happened had the case remained in the court room for a judge to sort out. )
Even if you are not yet involving the other party at this point in dealing with your conflict, this exercise will most likely you enlighten you. If you are able to move from your position to interest, you will be altering the course of the conflict. Try it, and have a peaceful day!