Mediation Tip: Leave Your Support At Home

If you are involved in a mediation, you may be tempted to bring someone with you for “emotional support.”  This is most common in family law cases, where feelings are at an all time high and conflict is at a maximum.  When the day and time comes for your mediation, leave that person at home.  The only “support person” you need in the room is your attorney, because your “emotional support” will cost you time and money, and have you leaving with no settlement and a trial date.

“Emotional support” is a good thing when you’re going through a divorce.  You’re in a vulnerable position, and you need a good network of friends and family to make sure you get through one of the most stressful life experiences a person can undergo.  A mediation isn’t time for therapy.  It’s time for resolution of your case and an attempt to reach an agreement between you and the other party.  Bringing an “emotional support” person into the mix will tank the entire session because they’ll never think you’re getting the best deal possible and always push for you to make the other side pay for some egregious sin of the past.  You, in your raw, vulnerable state, will be highly prone to suggestion and feed off the anger your “support” person is expressing.  This will lead to the rejection of an offer, and make everyone’s life more difficult as a whole.

The best support personnel you can have is a good attorney who understands the true nature of the alternative dispute resolution process, prepares you for the mediation by discussing the best and worst alternatives to a negotiated agreement, and guides you through the mediation session with tact and a strategic approach.  By the time you are finished with the session, and an agreement reached, you will be signing an agreement that will become a binding court order.  It’s crucial you have a lawyer actually look it over and advise you if any portion of the document won’t fly before the court.

If you’re a mediator reading this and allow parties to come as “emotional support,” and those people are allowed in your lobby, or worse yet inside the mediation rooms, cease the practice immediately.  An even better practice is to discourage parties seeking your services from bringing anyone other than an attorney in writing.  Place language into your Agreement to Mediate that has the parties expressly agreeing to not bring others into the mediation rooms.  If you’re actually practicing mediation and attempting in good faith to keep both parties at the same table, instead of breaking the parties and their lawyers into caucus for a game of “shuttle diplomacy” then keeping “emotional support” parties away from the mediation is going to stop the session from devolving into a shouting match.  If you can’t be bothered to conduct the session at one table, removing the “support” personnel will still help tremendously because while you’re working with parties in one room the other side won’t have someone continually in their ear rumbling angry thoughts about how “that bitch/bastard has it coming to him/her” and “make them pay.  That’s not good enough.  You deserve better.”

Divorce is a hard process.  It’s one where people experience very real pain and grief, so it’s good they have a network of support on which they can rely in the days, weeks, and months to come following the dissolution of their marriage.  The day(s) on which mediation takes place is not a time to have those parties available to tank the resolution of a dispute.  The availability of “emotional support” persons during the mediation, and mediator permissiveness in allowing these parties in to potentially shift the power dynamics of a mediation, is one more reason why I hang my head at the current state of mediation.

Mediation is Dead.

What I Learned From A Local Job Fair

I had some time this afternoon, and as a Professional Opportunist I’m always looking for ways to make money, so I ventured into Oak Ridge for the Anderson County Job Fair.  There’s a lot to be learned from job fairs, and I’m going to share with you a few things I learned, plus some suggestions if you’re trying to find work.  I’m not a big fan of job fairs, but they’re a good way to see what local businesses are hiring, take the pulse of a community, and see if there’s any deception afoot.  In the case of Anderson County, there’s a little bit of all that in play.

First a word about Oak Ridge.  I don’t have an issue with the town, but it gives off a vibe of sadness and despair.  Whether this has something to do with the immense lack of jobs in the region or the presence of a nuclear weapons plant in the town, I’m not entirely sure.  In recent days I’ve become far more mindful of where my mind goes in certain areas with regards to emotion, so I’m able to spot it and shift that mental frame into a more positive one.  Despite this, Oak Ridge just carries a lot of negative energy.  That said, let’s discuss the positive facts I learned.

  1. There’s a big job problem, especially in rural areas.

It’s hard to call Oak Ridge “rural,” but it’s very clear there’s a job problem everywhere.  Anderson County is about as “rural” of a city as you can get, especially so close to Knoxville, and the amount of people at this job fair were staggering.  I got there about 45 minutes before it was scheduled to open and the parking lot was already full of potential job-seekers.  The lobby was packed as well with people hungry and ready for a steady paycheck.  I hung back and observed the general tempo of the crowd, just in an attempt to see what I could learn.

The gamut of dress ran from absolute casual to full-blown business attire.  A few people even had their children with them.  I’m not sure whether this was due to an inability to afford child care for an afternoon or find someone to watch their kids, but it was definitely a sticking point in my head as I walked through the exhibition hall.  Some people carried briefcases or binders.  Many flashed stacks of resumes.

When the job fair opened everyone poured in though a narrow opening, almost like cattle, and began hitting up the various booths.  Some people were talkative.  Others simply grabbed applications and left the table without even saying a word.  One guy I saw do this kept muttering “as long as I keep applying they won’t put me in jail,” which was a rather telling statement as to what sort of legal situation he faced, as well as just how nervous he was in his current environment.

2. Everyone wants to work for the government.

The biggest demand from the job seekers was time in front of the nuke plant officials.  Once the hall opened, nearly every job-seeker made a beeline for the nuke plant table.  It’s understandable, the benefits were great and the job pool larger than just about any other table.  Yet few seemed to realize with that dearth of people coming to the table, very little of the faces would actually be recognized later on in potential job interviews.

3. Education is failing as a job market.

Most of the jobs were for rather specialized skill sets that didn’t require a higher education degree.  In fact, one of the better paying jobs only required a GED or high school diploma as educational experience.  This didn’t stop two colleges from showing up to flaunt their “track record” for job placement and shill how signing up and paying them money for a diploma would grant you keys to the world.

This presents a very interesting question.  Why are colleges hitting up potential students at a job fair?  With sliding enrollment rates, more people realizing trades and marketable skill sets are better than a piece of paper, and the continued spread of academic culture that promotes feelings over facts and perpetuates “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces,” it’s not that hard to pick out.  Yet the schools are that desperate, so much so they’re willing to try and take the money of those who have none at an event ostensibly designed to create jobs and place people with jobs.  It’s a deception, and one I’m dangerously close to exploring in depth.

4. The most sought after skills aren’t taught in higher education.

Driving a fork lift, building houses, welding, and working with the developmentally challenged were some of the most lucrative positions offered at this job fair.  However, most of the people who came to the job fair didn’t have a chance at any of these positions, because they didn’t have the requisite training or skills marketable enough to land these positions.  Most of them aren’t hard to learn; I got a chance to learn my locksmithing skills by asking an expert if I could apprentice under him.  Yet most people won’t take the time to even sort our these skills and simply choose to blame others for their inability to find a job.

Tips for successfully negotiating a job fair.

  1.  If there’s a lot of people flocking to a booth, ignore it and see if you can’t find the point of contact for the person who’s running the department you want to work with.  Standing in line for 30 minutes to an hour not only wastes your time, it practically guarantees you won’t be remembered by a hiring official sent to the job fair unless there’s something about you that sticks out.
  2. Go to the booths that look “different” and talk up the people there, especially if you notice they’re not getting a lot of traffic.  Tell them you want to speak to the “interesting” people, and they’ll fall head over heels for you at that point.  You might even get word of some interesting job opportunities better suited to your liking this way.
  3. Take a look at the flyers presented by the Chamber of Commerce.  You’ll usually be able to pick out what booths you want to visit and those you don’t that way.  Your time is valuable, make the most of it in advance by not visiting the places you don’t want to work.
  4. Leave your kids at home or with a caregiver.  If you can’t do that, ask a relative to watch them.  Finding good child care is hard, but just as it’s not beneficial to you to bring your kids to a job interview it’s not beneficial to take your kids with you to a job fair.  Plus they’ll get bored quickly, and bored kids don’t usually behave well.
  5. Dress at least in business casual.  If you don’t own a suit, buy a dress shirt.  If you don’t have slacks, buy some.  If you don’t have the money to do even that, go check out a local thrift store or ask about job clothing programs.  They usually exist.  And remember, you get a tax deduction for job seeking expenses.
  6. Have something that makes you stand out for a job hunter.  I took Bobby Motta’s “The Informant” with me and performed it for at least three people at job booths.  They get my business card and I leave an impression on them, knowing I can “read minds.”

Give it a shot.  You don’t have to be unemployed if you don’t want it.  Job fairs can produce positive results, you just have to approach them correctly.


My Conversation With The Professional Opportunist

At nine AM Eastern time, I find myself sitting in the chair in my daughter’s room on a Skype chat with none other than James Brown, the “Professional Opportunist” and writer of POWA. What followed was nothing short of a magical discussion between two people who took the time and the energy to live a conflict-free life.

I actually took time between my brain warmup, tea and juice to put myself in the POWA mindset.

“I’m going to have a conversation with James Brown.  This conversation will let me learn things that will be beneficial for Mediation is Dead.  No matter what, I will learn something from this discussion that will be enlightening.”

What followed was a forty-five minute discussion that turned into an hour.  I now consider James a guy I’d hang out with on a regular basis if we weren’t on separate continents.

I specifically asked him about conflict and how to approach things using the POWA mindset, and various applications of the techniques I’d learned from James and Daniele’s courses.

We eventually began discussing kids.  I told him of mine.

“So you have an interesting way to approach your practice by observing your children at their current age.  Notice the way most of their communication is done via body language.  At their respective ages, they’re not entirely verbal yet or cognizant of the English language.  They will communicate based on non-verbal cues.”

A lightning bolt of realization hit me, especially with the “messages” I’ve discussed on the Collaborative Compound Podcast.

“Consider the way you react to them as a means of communication.  Notice when your child starts to walk.  They will fall, and they will cry.  When you react, consider your reaction.  If you approach them as they cry with a smile and wide, accepting eyes, they’re more likely to get up and try again.  If you approach them with a look of fear and worry, they will react to that, and potentially not try again or be far more hesitant to move forward.”

We spoke at great length, and I’m sure we shall again, but this is the central focus of my conversation with the Professional Opportunist that I want to share.  If you want to communicate effectively with others, look at their non-verbal cues and respond to them in the manner you want to best.

Are you in conflict with the other person?  Look at their body language.  See them tense, focused, and angry.  They want you to respond in more than likely the same state.

Instead, take the Professional Opportunist’s Approach.  You respond with a calm, relaxed attitude, knowing that no matter what happens in the discussion you have with your counterpart you will reach a result.

You just might direct the discussion in the way you want, and you just might get to a more effective discussion.

More to come from my time sitting at the feet of the Professional Opportunist.  In the meantime, you can check out my review of James’s book POWA here, and if you want to buy a copy you can do so here.

“What did you mean by that?”

There’s a very simple question that can be used to avoid a good deal of conflict.  “What did you mean by that?”

We take our time to stew in our own heads, and we don’t communicate with people in a manner that’s beneficial or positive, because real life is hard, and people would rather text than talk.  For crying out loud, we’re now in a spot where people are using emoji to communicate with others!

The digital age has slowly reduced us from functioning human beings to cavemen and women drawing paintings on a wall.

That means when we see something posted on Facebook or Twitter, or we hear a statement from another person in public, we don’t even begin to question that person’s perspective and why they said what they said.  We just stew, make assumptions, and then create a knot in our guts that says “This person is a bad person.”

What if I told you there was an easy way to get a clear cut conflict resolution with one question?  This isn’t some Morpheus level crap, I’m telling you right now you can fix your problem with one question.

“What did you mean by that?”

Ask the person that sincerely and honestly.  Let them know you’re not picking a fight (unless that’s your place of response), but you really want to know what they meant.

When you do so, you’ll be surprised at the results.

I had a comedian at one point tell me that it was OK to commit suicide on the radio once.  He was the “heel” on a comedy show, and I was the “straight man” or “face.” I stewed on the subject for a bit, and then later that night I asked him “What did you mean by that?”

Boom.  Problem cleared up.  Issue solved.

Most people won’t take this step.  Most won’t even begin the conversation with that phrase.  They’ll just stew, because they’re afraid of conflict and doing something that will make their lives better.

Then the relationship is poisoned, the communication is over, and you don’t get the healing that is necessary.

So take that time today, tomorrow, or whenever you need to do it.  Just ask that simple question to kick-start your conversation.

“What did you mean by that?”