Comments: From The Horses Mouth: On The Nature Of Equine And Human Negotiations

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Philip Blomer, Dayton OH     02/08/05
Human Whispering seems to work
Having recently completed a session of "Training My Master" with my grandpuppy, I learned to appreciate Daisy's need to explore new surroundings and to gain a certain level of comfort prior giving a command that runs counter to her natural instincts. I have now learned to allow the parties to a mediation to also find a comfort level prior to enforcing rules of procedure. I am happy to report that most of the parties are now training their lawyers to allow some instinctive feedback to be given to the mediator rather than adhering to commands to "sit" or "stay" with a position taken before their entry into the ring. Thanks for a refreshing viewpoint!

Lucinda  Masterton, Lexington KY     12/09/04
Thinking more about predators and prey
I, too was intrigued by the article, being both a mediator and a horse trainer. I am currently working on the Parelli Natural Horsemanship program with my horses, and having fantastic results. This experience gets me thinking often of the interplay of these two arts, and perhaps, as a mediator, I use my horsemanship skills more than I think I do. I think it is helpful to recognize that as humans, we are also very strong predators, and our survival has depended on this place in the food chain as much or more than our ability to survive as prey. One of the reasons we humans have to be taught to "whisper" to horses is that our basic instinct with a prey animal is, as you say, to break it, to impose our will upon it, directly. As predators, we are tunnel visioned. Our eyes, unlike prey animals, are in front of our heads. We are focused on our goals, and we usually make decisions quickly, and then adhere to those decisions stubbornly. The impact of this instinct on our problem solving skills is that we beome positional, and it is difficult for us to consider other alternatives or options to the positions we have taken. Of course, those of us who are lawyers really demonstrate this proclivity! I think it is helpful to keep all of this in mind when working with clients, so we can encourage them to think of other options (Getting to Yes!) and not let them rigidly think that they have the only answer.

Rochelle , Buenos Aires     10/17/04
Enjoyed the comparison
Hello Mr. Benjamin, I very much enjoyed this article since I am a trained mediator as well as a rider and daughter to a "horse whisperer." My father trains "criollo" horses in northern Chile and uses the newer techniques you describe to break and work with his horses. While these natural methods require more patience and sensitivity from the trainer, the level of trust gained from the horse in the long run makes the animal much easier to work with and teach later on. As you noted, reducing the amount of anxiety in the horse or dog is so crucial to being able to effectively communicate with it, and the same goes for improving communication channels among parties in a mediation. I was lucky enough to attend the ACR conference recently in Sacramento, and very much appreciated your comments during the "World Cafe" section about the need for CR practitioners to take a hard, honest look at themselves. You made the joke that you always get pinned as the "bad guy" in such discussions; I found your ideas refreshingly sincere and necessary. I'm a young person attempting to forge a career out of my interest in CR, so "big picture" reflections like yours or other experienced practitioners, like J.P. Lederach, are very welcome. Thank you ! Rochelle Arms Rotary World Peace Scholar Buenos Aires, Argentina