Friday, August 16, 2013

Make a Connection with Each Participant

     Over the weekend, I visited the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.  Though I was not a huge fan of the former President, coming from California, I remembered his early days as an actor (or at least re-runs of the Western movies watched by my mother and grandmother!) and then I remember his first election as our Governor.  Though many were surprised, his training as an actor, like another famous former Governor, gave him the gift of being a terrific orator.  He was comfortable on screen, delivering lines and being warmly embraced by the world of his viewers.  The Library momentos and film clips confirmed it.  In nearly every "take" he was seen to be addressing not a huge general audience, but me, the listener, as though I was the only one in the room.  Last Sunday, the library was extremely crowded with tourists, school children and locals.  Yet, I came away feeling as though I had made a new connection with a public figure who I had never met!

     The lesson for mediators and litigators is to work towards making a connection with every participant with whom you hope to make an ally.  Physically, stand a little closer to the one who you wish to engage.  Make direct eye contact.  Listen and respect each varying point of view.  As Lincoln famously said, ""Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can.  There will still be business enough."

     To President Reagan's credit, he was an articulate spokesperson for peaceful transitions and stood in exactly the right place to take credit when the world events revolved in his direction.  He was everybody's ally in ways that serve his diplomatic efforts incredibly well.