Category Archives: communication

A Rant on Listening and Dealing with Emotions

Louis C.K.

Here’s a video clip of an appearance by Louis C.K. on Conan O’Brien‘s eponymous late night talk show. Apart from the content of the humour, there’s also helpful advice on how to listen and how to deal with difficult emotions. (Warning: Some may regard language offensive.)

Advertisements

The Purpose of Marriage

Jane Smiley at the 2009 Texas Book Festival, A...

Jane Smiley at the 2009 Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know what getting married is? It’s agreeing to taking this person who right now is at the top of his form, full of hopes and ideas, feeling good, looking good, wildly interested in you because you’re the same way, and sticking by him while he slowly disintegrates. And he does the same for you. You’re his responsibility now and he’s yours. If no one else will take care of him, you will. If everyone else rejects you, he won’t. What do you think love is? Going to bed all the time? -Jane Smiley, novelist (b.1949)

(Hat-Tip: wordsmith.org)

When worlds collide, or seeing conflict as a crisis in human interaction

Herzog, Paris Café, 1959, inkjet print. Collection of the artist, Courtesy of Equinox Gallery (Globe and Mail, online)

The starting point for the transformative model of mediation is an understanding of the nature of conflict as a crisis in human interaction. In this view, the crisis is characterized by two kinds of adverse impacts. First, in conflict each individual has a sense of her own diminished capacity to move past the situation. Second, each individual becomes more self-absorbed and, consequently, unable to see and hear the other person in an undistorted way. The transformative model then articulates how conversation, whether or not with an impartial third person, can foster the conditions within which people may move beyond their circumstances.

There is a poignant illustration of this power of conversation in Marsha Lederman’s feature article, “The collision: Fred Herzog, the Holocaust and me”, that appeared in The Globe and Mail on Saturday, May 5th, and online here. (Lederman describes Herzog “as arguably [Vancouver’s] most important — if for many years, obscure — visual documentarian.”)

Last fall, I had occasion to interview Herzog, who is 81, at his modest home on the west side of Vancouver. The book Fred Herzog: Photographs was being published, and it was an opportunity to talk about his life, his method, the impact of his late-in-life success.

The ‘collision’ or conflict occurs when Herzog, in response to a question, refers to the so-called Holocaust:

It’s a question about his early time in Toronto that leads to the Holocaust. We’re about 30 minutes into our conversation when I ask whether he, as a German, experienced any racism in postwar Toronto; I note that his employer – an importer of glass and china – was Jewish.

Herzog explains that George Zimmer, with whom he got along very well, had had a business in East Prussia before the war, a big furniture business, and that he must have sold it at a comparatively low price, given the times.

“He never complained to me about that,” said Herzog. “That marks him as an unusual person, because even now, many of the people I know, many doctors, are Jewish. And there isn’t one who spares me hearing about relatives who were, you know, treated badly during the war and the so-called Holocaust.”

My throat goes tight.

Read Lederman’s entire piece here and note how the conversations between Lederman and Herzog move for each of them through personal shock, reflection, and then openness to the other.

Listen to Herzog in a later conversation:

The reason I gave you the wrong answer to the Holocaust. … To begin with, when I grew up in Germany after the war, nobody ever talked about the Holocaust. Nobody. Not my boss, not the other employees. Nobody there ever talked about the Holocaust. It was actually a seamless denial. And it was only after I had left Germany, I think there were some trials in West Germany where the Holocaust problem was driven home to Germans in such a way that they could no longer ignore it. … I remember reading right after the war that there were six million Jews killed and I talked to people about that and most people said they had no idea. And I think on the other hand some people must have had an idea that bad things were happening but simply put their head in the sand.

And Lederman’s insight into what she has experienced:

After months of living with this, I’m surprised: I am able, I think, to see it all through Herzog’s battered lens.

I see his photography as the expression of a victim whose pain was not deemed valid in light of the atrocities of his countrymen and what others suffered; a young man who came to Canada and had to remain silent, but whose work speaks volumes.

Conversations with Ourselves

One of  the telling phrases that sums up the practice of transformative mediation is ‘turning conflict into conversation’.  We believe that conflict is essentially a crisis in interaction, that the crisis can be addressed through interaction, specifically conversation, with the support of a trained intervenor.  One of the key ways support is given is through interventions with the aim of having the speaker hear their words and having the listener hear the speaker’s words.

Often mirroring this conversation with the other is a conversation that we have with ourselves.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye, an American poet, refers to poetry as a “conversation with the world, conversation with those words on the page allowing them to speak back to you– conversation with yourself”  in an interview with  Bill Moyers of PBS recorded in 2002.

I’d like to share with you the first poem of hers I came across.  I think it echoes very well this sense of a conversation with ourselves:

Missing the Boat

It is not so much that the boat passed
and you failed to notice it.
It is more like the boat stopping
directly outside your bedroom window,

the captain blowing the signal-horn,
the band playing a rousing march.

The boat shouted, waving bright flags,
its silver hull blinding in the sunlight.

But you had this idea you were going by train.

You kept checking the time-table,
digging for tracks.

And the boat got tired of you,
so tired it pulled up the anchor
and raised the ramp.

The boat bobbed into the distance,
shrinking like a toy–
at which point you probably realized
you had always loved the sea.

Naomi Shihab Nye Different Ways to Pray– Breitenbush Publications, 1980

I’m afraid I cannot resist a couple more samples of her work:

My Grandmother in the Stars
By Naomi Shihab Nye

It is possible we will not meet again
on earth. To think this fills my throat
with dust. Then there is only the sky
tying the universe together.

Just now the neighbor’s horse must be standing
patiently, hoof on stone, waiting for his day
to open. What you think of him,
and the village’s one heroic cow
is the knowledge I wish to gather.
I bow to your rugged feet,
the moth-eaten scarves that knot your hair.

Where we live in the world
is never one place. Our hearts,
those dogged mirrors, keep flashing us
moons before we are ready for them.
You and I on a roof at sunset,
our two languages adrift,
heart saying, Take this home with you,
never again,
and only memory making us rich.

And, Bill Moyers’ favourite:

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: The Art of Disappearing.

When they say Don’t I know you? say no.
When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.
Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.
If they say we should get together.
say why? It’s not that you don’t love them any more.
You’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees.
The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished. When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven’t seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don’t start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.
Walk around feeling like a leaf. Know you could tumble any second. Then decide what to do with your time.

You can learn more about Nye, her life and work at Wikipedia as well as find other links to her.

Spirituality & Mediation

In this mediate.com video, Zena Zumeta says that family and work are at the heart of who we are as people.  She goes on to stress the importance of working with the process and letting go of outcome.  I couldn’t agree more with both of these sentiments.  For my purposes, I understand working the process to mean supporting the parties in having the conversation they want to have and in how they want to have it.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Zena Zumeta: Spiritual Side to Mediat…“, posted with vodpod

Turning Conflict into Conversation …

is one of the maxims of the transformative mediation model.  Without endorsing the ‘courage campaign’, I wanted to share with you this video of two well-known celebrities.  Not only is it funny but it also points to how certain conversations can be difficult but at the same time necessary to have:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Courage Campaign: Courageous Conversa…“, posted with vodpod

Should I vaccinate my child against pandemic H1N1 Flu?

Brian Galbraith of Barrie, Ontario

The challenges such a decision pose are compounded in the case of separated or divorced parents who share custody.  “Custody”, in this jurisdiction at least, is construed as authority to make major decisions in four areas of a child’s life: health, religious training, education and extracurricular activities.

Nancy Van Tine alerted me to this post by Brian Galbraith, a family lawyer in Barrie, Ontario, on this matter:

I always remind my clients ACBD: “Always Consult Before Deciding”.
If you share joint custody with your ex, you have an obligation to make all major decisions affecting your children together. This includes major medical decisions.
Whether to vaccinate your child is a “major decision” requiring you to discuss it  and decide with your co-parent, if you share joint custody.
I suggest you call or email your ex and offer these links so your ex can become informed too. Avoid it becoming a power struggle. Stick to the facts and the best interests of your children.
Even if you don’t share joint custody, it is a good idea to consult with your ex before proceeding so that your ex spouse feels involved. Your children benefit from having two involved parents and participation in decision-making helps make a parent feel involved.

Excellent advice!  Read the whole post here.