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Humor In Mediation Section Editorial

by Carl J. Debevec
April 2004 Carl J. Debevec
With credit to Mark Twain, the human race is the only species that has the ability to laugh at itself, or needs to.

The healing aspects of humor are well known in the medical profession. It is a curative of stress, provides release in stressful situations, and fits well within the context of the mediation process. Joel Goodman, editor of Laughing Matters magazine, observes that “you can be a serious professional without being a solemn professional.” He cites “Anatomy of an Illness” by Norman Cousins for the proposition that laughter promotes healthful physiological changes that relieve stress, enhances respiration and activates the immune system. How many times have you observed the lightening of tension in a mediation when someone makes a joke or offers a humorous comment?

But this section is not just about laughter and telling jokes. (Although jokes are welcome.) Rather it is intended to invite insightful comments and observations, and stories, about how humor may play a part in what we do, and who we are, as mediators. We welcome your shared experiences of humorous events in the practice, and the opportunity to comment on them. Humor is a broad subject containing many varieties and interpretations. It is about irony (a recent headline reads “Brawl Breaks Out at Anger Management Assembly”), absurdity (“Why did the mediator cross the road?” She can’t tell you unless the chicken authorizes her.”) and being able to laugh at some of the specific unique skills that we enjoy, e.g, reframing, listening, restating, confidentiality etc. We hope that a productive, challenging and, yes, humorous dialogue will be the result.


Carl J. Debevec is an attorney practicing general civil law in northern California. His practice includes business, trusts and estate planning, real property, elder law issues and mediation. He is a graduate of the Ohio State University college of law, a former Air Force judge advocate, and holds a post-graduate certificate in conflict resolution from California State University at Sonoma.

As an active mediator and trainer, he has chaired the ADR committee for the Solano county Bar Association for 7 years, and was recently named attorney of the year for his work in that program. He has extensive experience in court-referred and community-based mediation and conflict resolution processes, and organized the county bar Dispute Resolution Service, a community-based mediation program staffed by dozens of dedicated volunteer mediators.

He is a member of the Association for Conflict Resolution, the National Academy of Elder law Attorneys and the ABA section on elder law.

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