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After Trump v. Clinton: How “Stronger Together” and “Great Again” Can Become “Great Together”

by Jim Melamed
October 2016 Jim Melamed

Wow, what a divisive election! Some reasonably fear that this is the end of civility in American society. One reasonably wonders whether things have ever been worse.

So, what do we do on November 9? My guess is, in spite of the "suspense," there will be an acknowledged presidential “winner” and “loser,” and further that no single branch of government nor party will control everything.

Overtime, we have also come to see how, even a party “out of power” can (if only negatively) obstruct others, supposedly “with power,” from doing just about anything.

I suppose that one threshold question for each of us and all of us moving forward is whether we are satisfied with continued vitriol and eventual violence, or whether we would like to act together to “be as good as we can be” in doing “the people’s work” and seeking to have a most capable and informed set of governmental policies and practices.

Equally true is that this is not just about how our government functions, or doesn’t, it is also about how each of us functions, or doesn’t. You see, when faced with continued conflict, there are really rather few choices, three fundamental choices really. One can:

  • Fight (we surely have a sense of what this experience is like)
  • Flee (not a bad response if you think you will lose the fight or prefer to not fight) or
  • Figure (as in “Figure it Out”).

Plainly people, both individually and as groups, will make whatever choice they perceive to be their best choice. And so, if you think you will win any fight and not suffer any negative consequences for doing so, this might be your choice. Similarly, if fleeing makes clear sense, people will make that choice. But, when issues are important and relations between people continuing, fighting or fleeing generally do not make much sense. At best, these approaches “kick the can down the road.”

So, how would we as individuals and groups best move forward in such a complex and conflicted world? One part of the answer is surely that we can augment and elevate our discussions by the active use of capable, impartial facilitators and mediators to ensure that everyone’s ideas are heard and considered, to identify agreements that can be made, and to develop most capable communication expectations and capabilities moving forward.

Plainly, few really want to take the time to engage in mediation or facilitation discussions with “the other side.” We would commonly rather impose our will or walk away and ignore the situation. But, when the issues are complex and persistent and we simply are not able to make meaningful progress, either individually or as interest groups, it makes abundant sense to engage the services of a talented facilitator or mediator to help make things better. In fact, to help make things be as good as they can be.

You see, mediation and facilitation are the only conflict resolution approaches that have at their core the concept of not only resolving disputes, but most capably resolving disputes. There is an “optimization” or “maximization” aspect to mediation and facilitation that make them the ideal choice for most capably resolving both relational and public policy conflict.

More specifically, mediation and facilitation offer the following valuable qualities not available through our direct communications or other options:

Why Mediate or Facilitate?

1. You develop a clear understanding of “discussion process issues,” including the extent of confidentiality of the discussions;

2. You develop a best “problem-solving agenda” for discussion, including questions like, “How can we best . . .” and “What are the best ways for us to . . ..” In facilitation and mediation there is a shared responsibility for defining your best future, no matter how difficult the past.

3. As may be desired, participants in facilitation and mediation are able to “clear the air” about the difficult past and say what they want to say in a managed quality way that does not derail the greater problem-solving discussions.

4. The focus of facilitation and mediation is reaching new agreements to make things better. Common interests and points of agreement and exchanges are developed and implemented over time. As agreements are made and kept, a trusting relationship and further understandings commonly develop.

5. Even if all issues are not resolved in the moment, participants are generally able to put together limited understandings that provide genuine benefit and set a new problem-solving agenda and relationship for an improved future. There is greatness in doing the “right thing” and in giving relations and discussions their best possible opportunity to develop in an improved way. Our survival may depend on it.

Ultimately, we all get to “sleep in the bed we make.” On the heels of the current election and in an ever more complex and high-paced world, we face enormous challenges moving forward. I pray that each reader will remember the “Figure It Out” option and encourage facilitation and mediation in your personal, professional and political lives. We are wise to do our part.

Fight, Flee or Figure It Out? The fate of our planet, nation and our individual lives hangs in the balance.

Biography


Jim Melamed co-founded Mediate.com in 1996 and has served as CEO of Mediate.com ever since.  Mediate.com received the American Bar Association's 2010 Institutional Problem Solver Award.

Before Mediate.com, Jim founded The Mediation Center in Eugene, Oregon in 1983 and served as Executive Director of the Academy of Family Mediators (AFM) from 1987 to 1993. Jim was also the first President and Executive Director of the Oregon Mediation Association (1985-86). Jim's undergraduate degree is in in psychology from Stanford University and his law degree is from the University of Oregon.Jim has received the following awards: The Oregon Mediation Association's 2003 Award for Excellence; The Oregon State Bar's 2006 Sidney Lezak Award of Excellence; The Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) 2007 John Haynes Distinguished Mediator Award; and The 2012 Academy of Professional Family Mediators (APFM) "Getting To Yes" Award.



Additional articles by Jim Melamed

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