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Be an Empty Vessel

by Jan Frankel Schau
July 2013

View From the Middle of the Road Blog by Jan Frankel Schau

Jan Frankel Schau
I attended the funeral of my esteemed colleague and friend, John Weiss this past week. John epitomized the concept of listening to the parties in a mediation without prejudgment or bias. Like a good psychotherapist, the mediator's job is to listen, empathize and re-frame in such a way that disputants are truly heard and personal growth is actually possible. There is an art to offering a different perspective to a person so that, often for the first time, he/she can begin to appreciate the adversaries' point of view. There is an art to listening deeply, without judgment and echoing back what you've heard in ways that reassure the disputant that you have really heard his story that lead up to the dispute and where he is at that moment in his head and heart.

I attended John's funeral because, over the years that I've known him, I always felt we had a special connection. He always made me feel that he was keenly interested in my life and my career. What I learned there was that it was his gift to make every person he touched feel that way. The Rabbi shared with us that the lesson he had imparted to his children was that the most important person in the world was always the person standing right in front of them, or the person with whom they were engaged in conversation at that very moment.

In mediation trainings, we talk about being an empty vessel, or a blank chalk board or any number of cliches. My friend John Weiss modeled that behavior in genuine interest and an unique ability to tune out the noise of the world when he was engaged in a conversation with you. Every one of the hundreds of people in attendance at his funeral understood that lesson. We all knew we were his closest connection: at least when we were lucky enough to be engaged in a conversation with him. May his memory be for a blessing, and may I be fortunate enough to carry his lesson forward.

Biography


Attorney Jan Frankel Schau is a highly skilled neutral, engaged in full-time dispute resolution. Following a successful career spanning two decades in litigation, she has mediated over 700 cases for satisfied clients. Ms. Schau understands the nuances of trial and settlement practice as well as client relations and balancing the needs of their representatives with the risk and expenses of trial. Those who have used Ms. Schau’s services recognize excellence in her persistence, optimism, creativity and integrity.

Ms. Schau was the President of the Southern California Mediation Association in 2007 and is recognized as among the most outstanding mediators in Southern California in the mediation of civil disputes by her peers and clients. She also serves as a Trustee of the Board of Directors of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association, and has presided as Chair of it’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Section and Litigation Section. She holds a Certificate of Advanced Skills in Negotiation from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution of Pepperdine University as well as from the Western Law Center for Disability Rights at Loyola Law School.



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Website: www.schaumediation.com

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