Pioneer of conflict resolution and long-time mediator Gary Friedman has chosen an apt title for his forthcoming book: Inside Out: Working Through Conflict. Because I too believe mediation is partly an inside job—that the self-awareness of the mediator is a critical component of effective conflict resolution—I am very much looking forward to this book. I also have much respect for Gary's skill and wisdom so have no doubt the book will be a valuable contribution to the field.
Below is an excerpt from the book; the excerpt was included in the Center for Understanding in Conflict newsletter. (Sign up for the online newsletter at Friedman's Web site.)
All this talk of feelings: Is this therapy?
Because the self-awareness work we do in our programs is so challenging, people resist it in many ways. Participants in some of our programs ask if we’ve crossed some kind of professional line in including the emotional dimension in our awareness of ourselves and our clients in our work. Does that put us in waters too deep for people who have not been trained as therapists?
That question interests me, because it is now clear in recent studies of decision-making and conflict that emotions are a central factor when parties make decisions and professionals try to understand what is happening with their clients. If we decide to avoid the challenge of understanding our clients’ feelings, we miss information that is essential to doing our jobs well.
Using emotions to inform conflict work is still not universally accepted, but my experience over decades has shown us the power of doing so—and the perils of remaining blind to the way our