What was unusual was that he was addressing an audience of United States District Court Attorney Settlement Officers: those of us who mediate disputes within Federal Court. All of us have at least 10 years of experience as attorneys in Federal Court and are sophisticated commercial mediators dealing with high stakes cases.
But Ken speaks and trains on a different plane: he looks for the underlying issues in every conflict: the root of the anger and the fear which underlies it. And then he digs deeper: into the love that drives the fear of the possibility of loss, pain and grief. Ken sees a direct connection between anger and caring in a relationship. He prodded us into deep listening in order to excavate the truth that goes well beyond the pleadings in a lawsuit. He reminded us to bring our own hearts with us to every mediation.
Ken quotes both Albert Einstein: "Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler" and the poet, Pablo Neruda: "Every casual encounter is an appointment" as he reminded us to bring ourselves into the mediation room and be fully and actually present and available to the disputants before us. Only then is it possible to have those dangerous conversations which may ultimately lead to the path towards a lasting resolution of conflict.
Though we may become complacent in our everyday negotiations which quickly devolve into a conversation that is only about the money being exchanged, it's a critical reminder that we are also engaged in helping people in pain and crisis to get beyond their grief: indeed, that is the essential heart of every matter in mediation.