Comments: On American Arrogance: Styles of Mediation

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Tony , Port Clinton oh   08/04/09
American Arrogance
Right On

Andrew , Belfast NI   12/28/07
European Mediation
George Bernard Shaw observed that the UK & the USA were 'two nations divided by a common language'. Adding to that the rich & diverse language, culture and experience of European peoples might give some background to this discussion. Mediators in Northern Ireland owe much to American support in financing and assisting the development of models of practice in a society deeply and violently divided. Some international practitioners (from America and elsewhere) came to Belfast offering gifts of knowledge and insight which were received with great thanks, and through time enculturated to fit the local needs. They left us with a refined sense of their own practice, evolved through the experience of working with those who had no choice but to use thier emerging capacity to build peace and stability. However others came with predetermined 'solutions to our problems' which invariably were not. If Christiana's response to Robert Benjamin may be a reaction to such previous clumsy approaches I have sympathy, but I encourage further American mediators to come to Europe now with a spirit of learning and engagement. In particular- and with a blatant marketing approach learnt from much more competant American practitioners- I invite North American mediators to come to the European Mediation Conference opening in Belfast, Northern Ireland on the 10th anniversary of the internationally mediated Good Friday Agreement. An opportunity for good dialogue, face to face between practitioners about the growth of thier capabilities and the role of mediation in building peace internationally.

Darrell Puls, Kennewick WA     12/20/07
I tend to agree with Robert (whom I have met and whom I like) that American mediators and negotiators as a whole tend to think we invented both processes. Europeans tend to have much greater exposure to each other in their various countries and cultures than they do with Americans, and vice versa, for the simple reason that they are much closer together - having 3000 miles of ocean between us tends to isolate both Americans and Europeans from each other. However, this discussion is much larger than America and Europe. I did some study in South Africa and saw a new world of processes derived from both the European and indigenous cultures that were sometimes intermixed to maximize the strong points of both. I have friends who studied conflict resolution in a dozen African nations and were humbled by what they learned. There is no one best way to mediate or negotiate (I've been doing both for a living for almost 32 years) and we must always be open to different ideas and styles in humility and grace, not arrogance and single-mindedness. I too would welcome an article from Christiana.

lorin  , Omaha Ne   12/20/07
Unitended American Arrogance
Having read both the original article by Mr. Benjamin and the comment of Christina, I must agree with her. Her amazement did come directly from what Mr. Benjamin wrote. His statement that "they may have taken a few hints early on" is an arrogant conclusion without attribution that their negotiation/mediation roots don't predate our own which I believe they do. Further, by attempting to use the Freud analogy he appears to claim that Europeans are lifting the American work product without taking all the developmental trappings. I am sure it wasn't his intent to offend, but it is clearly stated as she noted.

Jim Lingl, Camarillo CA     12/19/07
American Arrogance
While Mr. Benjamin didn't post enough of the e-mail from Christiana to be able to tell what she was really upset about, it may not have been about the article - or American mediation styles - at all. During my last two trips to Europe, and during meetings with conflict resolution professional in Italy and Germany, it was easy to sense just beneath the surface a generalized dislike for the arrogance of our government. That discomfort with 'the American way' of doing things spills over in little ways, like criticism of cars and clothes and monetary policy and, no doubt, about our way of approaching mediation. Mr. Benjamin, it wasn't personal. If Christiana met you personally she would probably like you. But don't expect her to like the way our government has been acting like a schoolyard bully for the last 7 years or so. So don't be surprised that Europeans will take shots at us where they can. Maybe Christiana would like to write her own article, and explain the European perspective on our conflict resolution processes.