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Looking for Happiness!

by Phyllis Pollack
April 2017

PGP Mediation Blog by Phyllis G. Pollack

Phyllis  Pollack

Well… we missed it again! International Day of Happiness was March 20, 2017, according to the United Nations High Level Meeting on happiness and well-being. But, perhaps, missing it was not such a bad thing. According to the report, Norway ranks first followed by Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland. The United States ranks 19th in contrast to its ranking of 3rd in 2007.  (Executive Summary)

According to the Executive Summary, “happiness” is “…considered to be the proper measure of social progress and the goal of public policy.” (Id. at 1.) It seems that in the United States, we have been looking for happiness “in all of the wrong places.” (Chapter 7 at 183.) In reaching this conclusion, the researchers used several variables including log income per capita, healthy life expectancy, social support (“as measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble”), freedom to make life choices, generosity of donations and trust (“as measured by perceived absence of corruption in government and business.”) (Report at 2 and Chapter 7 at 179.) Even though our log income per capita and healthy life expectancy increased, our social factors “deteriorated.” (Id. at 179-180.) That is, we are in a social crisis as evidenced by a decline in less social support, less sense of personal freedom, lower donations and more perceived corruption in government and business. (Id.)

The report notes that our trust in others has greatly decreased along with our willingness to help others. The researchers cite the following experiment:

In one well-known experiment,

stamped and addressed envelopes were dropped

in public areas (sidewalks, shopping malls,

phone booths), to see whether people pick them

up and put them in a mailbox. This is a measure

of helping behavior among strangers. A

recent study  showed that the extent of helping

behavior by U.S. residents declined sharply

between 2001 and 2011, but this was not true

for Canadian residents.  (Id. at 182.)

In short, Americans have adopted an “us vs them” mentality causing us to lack trust and confidence in others. (Id. at 183.)

While this report speaks of United States it implicates each of us as citizens. Without trust and confidence, we cannot sustain any sort of relationship with others. Without trust and confidence, we cannot resolve even the smallest of disputes. Every negotiation, even one about who is going to pick up the dry cleaning that day, involves some degree of trust and confidence in the other and in the truth of what the other is saying. (e.g. “I cannot pick it up tonight because I have a meeting to attend.”). If we later find out that we were lied too, there goes the trust factor: we will be skeptical the next time around.

Like all negotiations, mediation is also about having a certain amount of trust and confidence not only in the mediator but in the other party. One of the most important things that a mediator must accomplish at the outset of a mediation, is to gain the trust and confidence of each participant. Without it, the mediator will find it quite difficult to help the parties resolve the matter.

While we all expect a little bit of puffery and gamesmanship in any negotiation, we must have some trust and confidence in the other party that she will not outright mispresent and speak untruths during the mediation. If the other party does utter untruths, and we later find out about it, remedies are available: we can attempt to unwind the agreement due to this alleged “fraud” or “misrepresentation.” And any future dialogue with that party will be approached with a high degree of skepticism if not mistrust.

So, … the United States, both as a country and as individuals, has lost its mojo: we are not in a “happy” place. We need to get our trust and confidence back not only in ourselves, but, more importantly, in others, as well.

… Just something to think about.


Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as well as their own needs better than any mediator or arbitrator. She does not impose her views or make decisions for the parties. Rather, Phyllis assists the parties in creating options that meet the needs and desires of both sides.  When appropriate, visual aids are used in preparing discussions and illustrating possible solutions. On the other hand, she is not averse to being proactive and offering a generous dose of reality, particularly when the process may have stalled due to unrealistic expectations of attorney or client, a failure to focus on needs rather than demands, or when one or more parties need to be reminded of the potential consequences of their failure to reach an agreement.

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