Be an Empty Vessel

I attended the funeral of my esteemed colleague and friend, John Weiss this past week. John epitomized the concept of listening to the parties in a mediation without prejudgment or bias. Like a good psychotherapist, the mediator’s job is to listen, empathize and re-frame in such a way that disputants are truly heard and personal growth is actually possible. There is an art to offering a different perspective to a person so that, often for the first time, he/she can begin to appreciate the adversaries’ point of view. There is an art to listening deeply, without judgment and echoing back what you’ve heard in ways that reassure the disputant that you have really heard his story that lead up to the dispute and where he is at that moment in his head and heart.

I attended John’s funeral because, over the years that I’ve known him, I always felt we had a special connection. He always made me feel that he was keenly interested in my life and my career. What I learned there was that it was his gift to make every person he touched feel that way. The Rabbi shared with us that the lesson he had imparted to his children was that the most important person in the world was always the person standing right in front of them, or the person with whom they were engaged in conversation at that very moment.

In mediation trainings, we talk about being an empty vessel, or a blank chalk board or any number of cliches. My friend John Weiss modeled that behavior in genuine interest and an unique ability to tune out the noise of the world when he was engaged in a conversation with you. Every one of the hundreds of people in attendance at his funeral understood that lesson. We all knew we were his closest connection: at least when we were lucky enough to be engaged in a conversation with him. May his memory be for a blessing, and may I be fortunate enough to carry his lesson forward.

                        author

Jan Frankel Schau

Attorney Jan Frankel Schau is a highly skilled neutral, engaged in full-time dispute resolution. Following a successful career spanning two decades in litigation, she has mediated over 700 cases for satisfied clients. Ms. Schau understands the nuances of trial and settlement practice as well as client relations and balancing the… MORE >

Featured Mediators

ad
View all

Read these next

Category

Mediation: The Human Face of Conflict

The role of mediators is to help people through conflict. Mediation may be seen as a process that evolves over four phases. It begins, usually in a joint session, and...

By Jacques Joubert
Category

Two Simple Steps For A More Successful Mediation

1. Actively ListenActive listening is a learned skill.  Much of the time we spend listening, we are also thinking how we can use what the other person is saying to develop...

By Erin McCoy Alarcon
Category

More on Bad Faith in Mediation

Gini Nelson at Engaging Concepts recently alerted me to John Lande's recent and excellent article, Principles for Policymaking About Collaborative Law and Other ADR Processes.  There is much in this...

By Victoria Pynchon

Find a Mediator

X
X
X