Wednesday, December 28, 2011

As a mediator, I hate compromise

I guess it depends on the world view you hold, but I believe in Compassionate Design: that whatever happens to you can lead you right into the heart of love.

When I first heard about this possibility, I was in my 20’s, and I decided to put it to the test. Along with two friends, I set out one winter to hitch-hike across the country on $2. There was a blizzard the day we started, and we considered postponing, but that would have been admitting defeat before we began, so we headed out into the snow. A month later we returned, tired, amazed, intact, and with our original $6; and so much richer for having “proved” the hypothesis.

If you travel in gratitude, you arrive fulfilled.

So it’s no surprise I ended up a mediator. I spend my days in rooms where people have lost their way, and I show them the gate of hope. Not all of them pass through there, even with a guide to help. But most look up from their distress with a sigh of relief and leave with a smile and new hope. Time and again they say a great weight has been lifted.

Last night I had a second session with a couple who married before they found out who each other was. Then they had a son, and now, for his sake, they are trying to get to know who they married.

I did what I do in the first session: I translated their accusations first into statements about the speaker’s truth, and then into requests of their partner’s indulgence. And I switched the description of our work from stopping the fights into finding the love. From less-pain into more-fun.

In their case, they were both mourning their single lives. All that freedom.  “Okay,” they seemed to be saying, “teach us how to compromise.”

As a mediator, I hate compromise. It almost always means one or both parties not getting what they want, and that just assures more fighting and discontent.

I told them what my marriage is like. It is a first marriage for both of us, and I was 50 when we  met. We both had had long single-lives, and really knew what we each liked. So instead of giving that up, we kept our autonomy and freedom, and added on all the benefits of married life.

I gave them an example. My wife hates standing on lines. She hates being told what to do, especially when it doesn’t make sense to her, or isn’t fun for her. I, on the other hand, don’t mind lines at all. I have a rich inner life, and lines just give me time to think. So anytime we encounter a situation that involves lines, just as Elise is tensing up, I offer to hold her place in line, and suggest she go exploring. I get time alone with my thoughts, and she gets even more freedom that she had when she was single, and had to stand in lines and fume.

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