Comments: Mediation: Staying Culturally Relevant In A Multicultural World

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Yemaya , Seattle WA   01/28/10
Nina, this article is a great compliment to what I learned from you during the training in Bellevue a few weeks ago. There are so many layers to communication! So much to learn! Thanks for posting this.

Nina Meierding, Bainbridge Island Wa     01/27/10
response to Sandy
Glad that you enjoyed the article. I deliberately do not put in specific cultures, ethnic groups, countries etc. for exactly the reason that you stated - that it can lead to stereotypes. I know that it might be frustrating for some people not to have a "list" but there is plenty of research that can provide that list. For me, knowing that there are different models causes me to be more curious about what type of mediation process (or variation on that process) might work - rather than make an assumption as to what will work because we are in a specific culture. It's all about being mindful, being open, being flexible, and being understanding - and especially important, parties utilzing self-determination to choose the right mediation process for them rather than having someone impose a process on them.

Sandy Bacharach, Portland OR     01/27/10
Terrific article!
Thanks for breaking down the tenets of mediation to point out their Western bias. I appreciated that you didn't name any one particular culture, group, or region if only because then it becomes too easy to pigeon-hole/stereotype that group. It's tricky to figure out when and where the model we use needs bending and flexing and where we can just know that we offer won't work for everyone and leave it at that!

Nina Meierding, Bainbridgte Island Wa   01/26/10
Eva - Thank you for your kind words. I will be in Vermont in April teaching an Advanced Mediation course at the Woodstock Inn (see my training calendar on my website.) Maybe we can meet then - even if just for coffee!

Chris LaHatte, Wellington NZ     01/20/10
Culturally Relevant
I think this has been a most useful article. As mediators in a multicultural society (and most of us do) we cannot make assumptions about the way people interreact based on Western cultural norms. The whole concept of neutral is based on those Western concepts of fairness, and as has been observed, over laden with legal concepts. More work needs to be undertaken, so we do not make the mistake of assuming the model of mediation we are using is not culturally inappropriate.

Rebecca Miller Pringle, peachtree city GA     01/20/10
Cultural Relevance
Your article not only makes sense but is also much needed. With the increase in the numbers of differing cultures coming into the United States, the need for cultural sensitivity takes on a new meaning. It no longer is a matter of sensitivity but one of necessity. I believe if parties have someone from their background mediating their issue, the likelihood of reaching an agreement increases because the level of tension and fear of the unknown has decreased even if just a little. Staying culturally relevant is very relevant today and tomorrow. Great article!

Eva Zimet, Randolph VT     01/20/10
Nina, I celebrate your article + your work. If I were anywhere nearby I'd call + try to meet you, but I'm in Central Vermont. So I'll be content to write that your approach to peace-building encourages me greatly and reflects ideals of, and builds on lineages far more enduring than any Western model. I've come to describe to new clients that my role in a mediation is not as a neutral but rather that I am on both, or all, sides. My approach is inclusive and my constant training is in awareness. Cultural understanding is certainly a major gap in the typical Western experience, and that's only one. Social standing, religious diversity, gender conformity, well, conformity in general, all contribute to the dull and heavy blinders many of us are accustomed to wearing. We might not reasonably aspire to be experts in every culture, but with increased awareness, our intent and our compassion can cross barriers. Eva Zimet Mediator Central Vermont 802 793 1945

Wallace  , Harrisburg OR     01/19/10
the "Western model" of mediation
Nina Meierding lists a number of important and interesting cultural differences in the way negotiations take place, but the question is whether the approaches she describes are really "mediation" or more appropriately called facilitated or moderated negotiation. Unfortunately, the entire explication is in the abstract without a single case, ethnic group, or nationality described. So one wonders where the "collectivist" mediation exists. Without knowing, it's impossible to tell if the author is describing a real situation or to what extent one might agree or disagree. The elder who tries to broker a peaceful resolution--is he or she a mediator, a facilitator, an arbitrator, or a judge? I come away not sure whether she is saying that there are other models of mediation or perhaps simply that there are other models of non-judicial problem resolution. In fact, the word for mediation does not exist in some languages, at least not for a problem solving process. Perhaps the take away is that the western model and western mediation is not always the best way or acceptable way to solve conflicts in other cultures. Or perhaps that the western model needs to be carefully explained to non-western participants. To assume that they cannot understand it would be patronizing. If we really believe in the value of cross-cultural fertilization, we should not be hesitant to introduce the western model of mediation to other cultures--respectfully.