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<xTITLE>Negotiating Disability</xTITLE>

Negotiating Disability

by Diane J. Levin
March 2009

From Mediation Channel

Diane J. Levin

barriers to negotiationLast summer an online magazine for entrepreneurial women elevated form over substance when it advised its audience to accessorize for that big negotiation and mimic the “look” of the person on the other side of the table. I responded with a post criticizing the undue focus on physical appearance:

Behind it lurks a whole array of social justice issues uncomfortable to discuss but urgent for us to face — women and aging, youth and beauty, race and skin color, antipathy toward the obese, prejudice against those with disabilities or deformities.

In urging women to “mimic” the look of their bargaining counterpart, how would the author of this article counsel the 60-year-old woman negotiating with her 30-year-old prospective boss? Or a woman of color negotiating in a predominately white workplace? Or a woman wearing a hijab? Or a woman with a face disfigured in a car crash, negotiating with people who are unscarred and whole?

We are told not to judge a book by its cover yet repeatedly we do nonetheless, reducing others to something less than the sum of their parts. We make snap judgments, too often wrong ones, on the basis of physical appearance. We mistake mere emblems of authority — the business suit or the white coat — for actual authority. We rely on beauty as a proxy for intelligence, social skills, and talent.  And our discomfort with differences can lead those who are not disabled to stigmatize and shun those who are.

Consider the recent case of BBC children’s television host Cerrie Burnell. The BBC’s decision to cast Burnell, who has only one hand, sparked strong reaction from some parents who claimed that her disability would frighten children.

The BBC made the decision to hire Burnell; others obviously would not have. For those with disabilities not all barriers are made of concrete or stone. And some still block access to a seat at the negotiating table.

Biography


Diane Levin, J.D., is a mediator, dispute resolution trainer, negotiation coach, writer, and lawyer based in Marblehead, Massachusetts, who has instructed people from around the world in the art of talking it out. Since 1995 she has helped clients resolve disputes involving tort, employment, business, estate, family, and real property issues, and serves on numerous mediation panels, including the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Training and coaching are an enduring passion -- she has taught thousands of people to resolve conflict, negotiate better, or become mediators -- from Croatian judges to Fortune 500 executives.

 

A geek at heart, Levin consults on web design and social media to professionals.  She blogs about ADR at the intersection of law, science, and popular culture at the award-winning MediationChannel.com, regarded as one of the world's top ADR blogs.  She also tracks and catalogues ADR blogs world-wide at ADRblogs.com, where she has created a community for bloggers writing about constructive ways to resolve disputes.

 

web site: http://dianelevin.com



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