By Sean Corcoran
When disagreements occur between friends,
family, neighbors or coworkers, it can be difficult to
work through the frustration and actually see the
situation from the other person's point of view. Cape Mediation of Orleans is a group
dedicated to helping people settle their disagreements
by promoting communication and cooperation.
At a training seminar for mediators, two women take
center stage at the front of the room and assume the
roles of a father and his 13-year-old daughter, who
thinks her parents are being too tough on her.
: "...I don't understand why they don't trust me.
I always do my homework and my chores and get good
grades. They're way too strict. They won't even listen
to me. They treat me like a baby."
: "There is no reason we need to be here at all. This
should be handled inside the family. Maria needs to be
more respectful. Why is she even questioning my rules?
Maybe we are a little strict, but that is the way
children are raised in our native Mexico..."
Twice a year, Cape Mediation of Orleans conducts
training seminars where attendees like John Bonistalli
of Boston and Jeannie Heroux of Harwich listen to
scenarios like this one. Then, they begin to
strategize. How can they get the father and daughter
to understand the other person's point of view?
"Ok, the daughter, it seems to be an issue of
trust with her, and with the parents it seems to be an
issue of respect."
: "Respect and culture. ... The daughter needs to
understand how important the father's culture is, and
the father needs to understand the daughter isn't
living in Mexico."
Mediation is about reaching a solution by
getting people to understand each other's point of
view. During training sessions, mediators learn how to
give both sides the opportunity to explain the
conflict from THEIR perspective. They ask questions
and encourage everyone to listen to the answers. What
they don't do is decide exactly how to settle things.
Instead, they ask the people involved, How do YOU want
to resolve this?
Carolyn Kildegard of Martha's Vineyard says she
expects the mediation skills to be of great use at
Dukes County Community Correction Center, where she
teaches life skills to people on parole.
: "I think I am going away with more of an
understanding about how the other person has a
perspective that obviously different from mine, but
not necessarily wrong. Not better or worse, but
Cape Mediation assists in family disputes,
such as questions of inheritance and conflicts between
parents and children. They work with business partners
who may be looking to go their separate ways, and will
help neighbors settle disagreements. But the
organization also plays a role in the local court
system. People who take their issues to small claims
courts in Barnstable, Orleans and Falmouth may find
themselves sitting in front of a team of mediators
before they see a judge.
Mediator Ian Ryan says the process promotes
communication and cooperation between two parties,
letting them reach a solution together.
: "I know I feel better when I solve my own
problem, rather than going to someone else for an
answer. And the court system is a valuable tool for
people who are in conflict. But in essence, you are
going to the court to have someone else make a
decision about something that might be very important
to you. While if you use mediation, at least at first,
you give yourself an option to solve it yourself."
Deborah Fish, the director of mediation
services and training at Cape Mediation, says each
year, more and more people are using mediation to
settle conflicts. Last year, her organization alone
handled nearly 500 cases. Still, Fish was surprised to
see mediation mentioned recently in the comedy Wedding
Crashers. In the film's opening scene, before Owen
Wilson and Vince Vaughn's begin cruising bridesmaids
and eating crab crakes, they're seen doing their day
job, mediating a dispute between a divorcing couple
who openly admit they despise each other.
: "You shut your mouth when you're talking to me!"
: "You guys
didn't always hate each other, there had t be some
nice moments, during the courtship maybe? Or the
: "The wedding had to be fun.
: "You get the family together." "You've got
the decorations. Family coming together."
Fish says the very fact that
mediation was featured in a blockbuster Hollywood film
tells her that the practice is becoming more
recognized as a way for people to settle their
disputes without involving a judge, jury or even a
lawyer. It's progress, she says.
: " When I started,
people would mix it up with meditation. And now, at
least, people know the word. We had someone in the
hall waiting for the office to open because they
wanted to start meditating. We've come a distance from
Cape Mediation's holds mediator training sessions each
fall and spring, while it also works with businesses. Mediators also
go into the schools and provide peer mediation
training, as well as on-site training programs for
private organizations and businesses.
80 Route 6A - unit 3
PO Box 193
Orleans, MA 02653
Broadcast September 7, 2006
Re-broadcast April 12, 2007
Sean Corcoran reports for WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR Stations.