A, B, C - Always Be Closing

Death visited Irene last night and took her swiftly, without warning or as much as a whisper.  News of the passing of a loved one travels fast in today’s global world.  I feel vulnerable. Devastated.  I suppose in the grand scheme of things we all think we are doing what we should do and can do and then when tragedy strikes, wonder if we really did. What are we doing?  We spent a lifetime trying to define the purpose and meaning of a life, but what is the purpose of death?  And why does not everyone get the same amount of time to live?  It is dark, and all things seem distorted in the shadows of the night. In the morning when daylight breaks, perhaps the light will make things a bit clearer - and things easier to understand. Death is as much a part of life as birth - but right now, it is impossible for me to understand.

Yet, the show must go on.  The world keeps turning. Bills come in like clockwork.  Deadlines still stand. And we make it through our day, physically present and mentally somewhere else.  I thought about a 9/11 call I listened to.  I reflected on the clarity, the tone, the seemingly tranquility of that incredible Georgian elementary school accountant who talked a gunman who “was willing to kill” and “that he knew he was going to die” into disarming and getting on the floor.  She certainly did not plan on coming to school that day to make a 9/11 call while being held hostage at gunpoint. She never mediated before.  How did she build “rapport” with the troubled 20-year old man, and what did she do or say to talk him into surrendering? She talked about her divorce after 33 years of marriage, and the “roller coaster” of opening her own business.  She told him that he was going to be okay. If she could recover, he could, too. 

Those of us with some mediation experience and training know that everything we do in mediation is tactical. We are intuitively aware of our surroundings, pick up on things seen, and on things unseen. We monitor the conversation closely with the goal in our mind. ABC.  Always Be Closing.  We are in charge.  We probably took on the case voluntarily and/or received compensation for our time.  Ms. Tuff did not.  She followed some 900 people fleeing the gunman when he took her and another administrator hostage.  

We talk about maintaining a sense of self in conflict.  We all had our share of mediating ‘silly’ disputes as well as unusual or even oddly foreign ones.  We have feelings and emotions too, but for the purpose of mediation, we are careful to share them.  But what about those days where we are grieving? How do we conduct a joint session or caucus, actively listen, validate the parties’ respective positions and focus on closing the deal?  Do we react differently? Are the stages of grieving different for some of us? 

When we look at other people’s lives – how do we stay positive? Through life’s struggles? Trials and errors? Can we find strategies? I imagine that if I were to have a mediation today after hearing about Irene,  I would not be able to push thoughts about her out of my mind.  Yet, I would not share my emotions with the parties to the mediation.  Why would I? To garner their sympathy? Or make them uncomfortable? Or both?  It is not about me.  My job is to close. 
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