Former CRS Mediator, Dallas Office; Private Mediator and Trainer
What about in the context of the case? Do you do any training, especially with a minority group, in order to somewhat level the playing field?
I would talk to the establishment and the minority group about learning how to clarify issues, and begin to strategize. I'll coach and train them. I'll sit in private with them, in kind of a teaching mode, and explain to them how to respond to a system and get what you need in a productive way. If you're going to do some destructive things, you can do that on your own. If you want to be productive, then I want to help you with that. A lot of the coaching, teaching, and technical assistance was not behind the scenes because I made sure everyone knew I was doing that. It wasn't undercover, I wasn't sneaking around and helping. Some of the establishment people weren't any more sophisticated about the issue than the community groups were, so I'd do the same thing for them. Generally, the issues were being generated out of the community because the establishment says they don't have any problems. The teaching and the coaching on the establishment side was to help them understand the dynamic of perception. I didn't feel like I had to make them fess up and say, "Yeah, we violated this rule," or, "We've not done all we can do." If you have to get them to confess, you're not going to get them to the table. If I could get them to say, "Sure, we could do better," then that's what I was after. My next goal is to help them emphasize and say, "We're not doing that. But, if they believe we're doing it, I understand why they're so frustrated." That was my next indication that we were moving in the right direction.
Can you verbalize how you moved in that way?
It took time establishing that trust relationship. The community would be saying the same thing, "They're not going to be fair or honest. They're not going to deal with us with integrity, they never have." To be able to come to some point and say to the community, "They have assured me that they're coming to the table in good faith. Now I'm going to take them at their word. Are you going to at least give it a shot?" The same thing with the establishment. It was a matter of being able to verbalize for the community at first, this is how they feel. "If that happened to you, how would you feel?" "Well, I'd feel awful. But we didn't do that." "Well, I'm not saying you did. But if they believe you did, they feel that." That worked.