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.



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Biography




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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Website: www.debevlaw.com

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Comments



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 Sue  ,   Tacoma WA    03/17/06 
 humor in mediation 
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Humor or at least a light hearted approach from the start often allows people to be more relaxed with me as a mediator. I become more approachable. The only humor I use that is 'planned' is often when speaking to the rules of mediation I add, no pinching or kicking under the table. I always add a sly smile, and they usually do too. And just a note to add that a SMILE is very important in mediations. Generally they are not smiling until they make progress or find relief. Meanwhile I am smiling as often as I can, the smile often brings a sense of ease and allows me to again insert some light humor. When the finally smile - I generally notice internally why.
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 Shirley Cochran,   Columbus OH  scochran@insight.rr.com      05/19/04 
 Humor in Mediation 
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I was pleased the other day when an attorney for a party complimented me on my use of humor in mediation saying he found me to be much less stuffy than most mediators. I have always said that I take what I do very seriously but if I start taking myself seriously anyone has the right to call me on it. I do not remember any breakthrough humor but I do use humorous examples of some of the exceptions to the mediation confidentiality statute in Ohio in particular to try to bring the parties out of their initial fear or reluctance.
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 Mark ,   Tallahassee FL  theraven@rollstuhl.com      04/24/04 
 training mediators to use appropriate humor.. 
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Some mediators are reluctant to risk humor. Others over use or misuse humor not appropriate to the particular situation. I'm searching for good examples to use in mediation training to illustrate cases where the use of humor made a critical difference in achieving a favorable outcome. All email contributions will be very much appreciated.
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