Our many opportunities to mediate: And our new opportunity to learn how

Does it seem like the people all around you just can’t get along? Do you often lament everyone’s inability to relate to everyone else, which often impedes your own happiness?

If so, you’re in luck. You have many daily opportunities to mediate! Anytime you can help the people around you reconcile their differences, you have the everyday opportunity to mediate. And anytime you engage in everyday mediation, you also have the opportunity to make life negotiable—for the disagreeable parties, but also often for yourself.

Indeed, it must be your lucky day because you not only have many opportunities to mediate; you also have an excellent new book by conflict resolution experts Jeanne Brett, Stephen Goldberg, and Beatrice Blohorn-Brenneur that tells you exactly how to do so. Before considering the book, though, let’s consider just a few of our many daily opportunities to mediate and thus make life negotiable:

  1. Arguing kids. Who gets to play with the dinosaur? Who gets to sit closer to the TV? Who gets to eat the remaining sliver of birthday cake? Such are the disagreements that frequently arise among young kids, and that often call for a parental mediator, whose efforts not only pacify the kids but protect their own sanity.
  2. Factional families. The approaching holidays tend to bring families closer—physically but not always emotionally. Families frequently have factions—be it about politics, personal style, or past events and slights. An opportunity to mediate around the turkey and thereby boost everyone’s holiday cheer, perhaps?
  3. Disagreeable coworkers. We don’t always get to choose our teammates. Sometimes we’re stuck with an organizational team containing two irascible souls who mix like oil and water. But their bad blood doesn’t change our own accountability for the project deliverable. Mediating is often the only way to contain the oil spill before it poisons the well.
  4. Competing impulses. We often experience conflicts within ourselves—a struggle between want and should, for example, or a tug-of-war between work and life. Finding a way to mediate between impulses without trampling one or the other can often pave the only road to balance.
  5. Prickly contractors. Those of us who own homes know that they often require maintenance. Unfortunately, that maintenance sometimes fails to produce the desired outcome, and we as homeowners have to figure out why. Is that ugly bulge in the ceiling a result of the roofer’s leaky shingles, the painter’s shoddy patchwork, or the insulator’s clumsy footwork? Ask the roofer, and you’ll probably hear the painter or insulator. You get the picture. Mediating between protective and prickly contractors who think none of their own work may have contributed to a problem may be the only way to get your house fixed without footing the bill for a redo.

Luckily, the new book by Brett and colleagues tells you just about everything you might want to know about mediation. From what it is, to how to do it, to handling the inherent difficulties, this  book offers an easily accessible and eminently valuable resource for those of us who have to mediate—that is, for all of us. So I hope you read it, as I have. And I hope it helps to make your own life more negotiable, as it has mine.

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