Empathy

 

Silke Hansen

Senior Conciliation Specialist, Community Relations Service

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003


This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

A: It's a moment when the parties involved suddenly realize that I actually can talk with this other party, this other side and they actually heard me and they understood.

What is just as good at those moments is the point where I can begin to realize that even though you are not could giving me what I really wanted, I now believe that you are giving me the best that you can, given the circumstances that you face. Whereas before if you told me I don't have the money to do that, I would have seen that as a cop-out. I now understand that you don't really have the money, but let's see, now that I understand what your fiscal limitations are I now believe that we can work around that and still address that issue jointly. And that's a huge step.

Again I can think of another one where there was a lot of distrust early on. By the end of the mediation process which took weeks, even months, by then end of having gone through that process one of the parties was actually willing and we were now beginning to word the agreement or the understanding, one of the parties was willing to accept wording like, "Party A will make every effort to --". At the beginning they would have said that's bullshit! What do you mean make every effort to. We want verifiable goals we want verifiable numbers and you either meet that or you don't.

Q: We don't want you to try, we want you to do it.

A: We want you to do it, exactly, but after having gone through the process they really believe that if let's say Fred and his company and his organization said, "Look, we're going to work towards this goal. That they would believe that and would be willing to accept that kind of language because during the course of the mediation process the relationship of being mostly confrontational and not trusting began to change towards one of collaboration and how can we work to make that happen. Again, that is when I say, "They pay me to do this? How great is this?"