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 de-escalate 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.
In addition to mediating, I lecture regularly about empathy and hidden desire at MIT, Berkeley and other top schools, as well as to practicing attorneys throughout the country. I am proud to share that in 2017 I delivered my first TED talk, called The Secret to Understanding Humans. In 2022, I authored a popular series called Understanding Humans about human conflict and understanding. In 2024, I completed writing a soon-to-be-published novel about whether peace can be created in world riven by polizaration and extremism: Enemies: A Peace Story.
The Secret to Understanding Humans
In his TED talk, Larry Rosen opens a window into the human unconscious that will help you understand everyone, from your spouse to your mother to your boss, no matter how seemingly bizarre their words or actions. His simple and profound insight can help you improve the important relationships in your life.