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Posted by: Christy Gibson on May 23, 2013


First and foremost, I want to congratulate Jackie Kittrell on her selection as the new Chair of the Tennessee Bar Association Dispute Resolution Section.  Jackie is a terrific leader blessed with an intuitive understanding of the dispute resolution process.  For that, and many more reasons, I enthusiastically look forward to this coming year under her thoughtful leadership.  Congratulations, Jackie!

Some Final Tidbits

In this newsletter over the past year, I have commented from time to time about books that I have found useful in my mediation practice.  In keeping with that custom, I want to mention a book that I recently read by Wayne F. Regina, called Applying Family Systems Theories To Mediation.  In it, Regina points out that the “Bowen Theory” — posited by renowned psychiatrist (and Tennessean) Murray Bowen — is a remarkable tool for creating new and better opportunities for managing differences.  As we continue in our endeavor to enhance the methods for resolving conflicts and promoting peace, I found the book to be extraordinarily useful in guiding how to think and act as a mediator.  Regina’s application of the Bowen Theory to the practice of mediation shed considerable light on the process of communications, emotional exchange, and what actually occurs at the mediation table. 

Another book I just picked up by chance called Finding Solutions To Seemingly Impossible Conflicts by Peter T. Coleman dovetails neatly with the Bowen Theory and Regina’s book.  In it, Coleman cites a statistic that “5% of our more difficult conflicts become intractable: highly destructive, never-ending, and virtually impossible to solve. They occur in families, between friends, at work, among neighbors and in the geo-political arena.” Coleman’s extensive experience and research provide a helpful and strategic guide for tackling problems that seem difficult (if not impossible) to resolve. 

One of the tools that Coleman mentions is one that is constantly referenced in the context of ADR training: active listening.  I mention it here because I was recently at my sister-in-law’s graduation ceremony at Mississippi College in Jackson, Mississippi, where the commencement speaker for the Graduate School was Randall Crenshaw, Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer of CommScope.  Mr. Crenshaw gave a brief (and I mean very brief) commencement address in which he made three — and only three — points: (1) De-clutter your life; (2) The choices you make are your life; and (3) A vital key to success in life is developing “active listening skills.”  The sagacious Crenshaw, however brief, was so stirring that he earned a standing ovation … although, anyone not already “actively listening” would have missed his pithy speech in its entirety.  But the larger point is that the same tools that help us navigate difficult transitions and seasons in life also help inform and enhance our ability to resolve conflicts for others — whether in an informal gathering at a neighborhood yard-sale or mediating a patent dispute between entrenched Fortune 500 companies. And both Mr. Coleman’s and Mr. Regina’s books highlight skills that will serve you well, not only as a mediator, but also in your pursuit of that most enigmatic of life’s pursuits:  Success — however it is that you define it. 

Again, best of luck, Jackie!  We eagerly look forward to your leadership.

Stephen L. Shields, Chair