To my surprise, during my first weeks as a professional mediator, in 2001, my practice was
already relatively busy. At that time, I had no roster of former clients, no words of
recommendation, no sources for referral and little experience. Why then did clients wish to work
with me? What is abundantly clear is that it had little to do with me personally. Rather, my
message, communicated through literature and on my website, offered a philosophy which
deeply resonated with many people in conflict. They found me.
And what was that message? What is that message? It has changed somewhat over time, but
what remains the same is this: the judicial advocacy system (hiring lawyers to resolve legal
issues) is geared for intellectual warfare, and can rarely deliver to those who have a personal
relationship what they truly seek: peace. The other part of the message was that pursuing
understanding as a means toward resolution offers not only sustainable solutions but the
possibility of preserving or even renewing respect and care. This is not what is taught in law
school—far from it—and so, it is not what is widely held among those in the legal profession.
Clients gravitated toward me because I was among the few trained in law who offered any real
hope that the great breadth of their needs would be satisfied..
My path toward collaboration began some time prior. After graduating in the top ten percent and
Editor of the Law Review from UCLA School of Law in 1993, I served for several years in the U.S
and Asia as a negotiator for American and international concerns locked in dispute. It was there
that I developed a strong perspective on how to deescalate conflict: bring the parties to authentic
understanding of each other's experience. I found this always possible despite deep cultural and
personal divides. Subsequently, in 1998, I became the CEO of Artmosphere, a visionary venture
capital funded company offering trainings in teamwork, communication and creative problem
solving. It was then that I began the sincere study of conflict, directing much time and energy
into the practice of Nonviolent Communication (also known by many as "NVC"). I was drawn to
mediation as a path of healing for individuals and as a way to contribute to the world at large,
and in 2001 founded Through Understanding.
In the years since, through success and failure in mediation, I have learned a great deal. What I
couldn't foresee—and what I still don’t fully understand—is the sheer creative magic often
produced by understanding. When people caught in conflict are brought to the point where they
understand their own needs and the other person’s needs—where they hold both sets of needs
in their mind simultaneously, without anger or judgment—their minds solve the problems which
seemed intractably multi-dimensional and complex. What I have also learned—and this perhaps
should have been obvious to me—is that mediations are not without their difficulties, and one of
the greatest services I can provide is to share with clients when, based on my experience, I
believe the mediation may be in trouble. This consciousness has, I believe, kept many clients
from landing ultimately in litigation.
Through years of practice, my learnings have been too great to catalog, my belief in
understanding as a tool toward resolution has matured and deepened, and my hope that I can
help people avoid tragedy in their lives has proven for many a reality. I show up to each
mediation as myself, without formality or pretense, and I attempt to offer all the tools and
presence available to me. .
San Francisco and Oakland
|Resolving Conflict through Understanding
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