Civility in Mediation/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Posted on January 16, 2017


A recent post by Atty/Mediator Jan Frankel Schau, appearing at LinkedIn, is entitled “Why Civility Matters in Mediation”. Ms. Schau points out how civility is a necessary adjunct of the mediation process. Civility is needed moreso now more than ever because we have become a fragmented society. Pro-Trump people need to talk about putting the Clinton behind bars, while pro-Clinton advocates must assert that the new President-to-be is not legitimate. There no longer seems to be a middle ground in political discourse. Civility is a dying art, to be replaced by confrontation and dismissive treatment of those who hold alternate views. Civility is now needed more than ever and the mediation arena is a good place to model and teach about civility.

The recent movie about the events in Selma, Alabama introduced new students of history to the key role played by some Republicans in the Civil Rights legislative initiatives. One story that shows how important a kind word can be involves Democratic Senator/Vice-Present Hubert Humphrey and Republican leader Everett Dirksen. Mr. Dirksen was given over to occasional poetic musings. He once fought for the need to make the marigold a national flower! The support of Senator Dirksen, and other Republicans, was needed to assure passage of a Civil Rights Bill. Senator Humphrey stopped over at the Dirksen home to discuss support for Civil Rights legislation. While there, Senator Humphrey asked to see the garden on the Dirksen property. In the course of this visit, the Dirksen marigolds were made the focus of great praise by his Democratic colleague. The rest of the story is now history. The power of civility or a personal work of kindness can be quite powerful.

On a more contemporary note, there has been a great thaw in the relationship between the Trump and Cruz camps. A recent post by Eliana Johnson at  gives some insight into the transformation. Issues of interest to Senator Cruz are suddenly a focus of attention by the Trump advisors. Thus, the bill proposed by the Cruz camp to defund the U.N., due to recent condemnation of Israel, is of great interest currently to Trump staffers. A simple act of civility, or collegiality, has now brought two opponents into a warmer relationship. “Can’t do” has now become “can do” due to the power of words or symbolic gestures. Mediation works. It is especially true where the process of mediation is marked by civility and shared interests. Mediate don’t litigate. And employ civility in all mediation processes.