Sep 2011 22

Forrest Mosten, known affectionately as Woody Mosten, is one of the country’s top mediation trainers.  I visited his office awhile back and he took me on a tour of his mediation office and talked a little bit about why he set his office up as he did.

I know it might sound like over-kill, but mediators need to be very mindful of how their offices are set up because setting the intention for clients is very important.

What does your office say about you?

Does the Class AAA space say that clients are paying your rent? or does your modest address tell clients that you don’t care about details?

Do the files and file boxes everywhere in the conference room tell clients that you will treat their file in the same way, with papers strewn about and their names written on files and boxes for everyone to see? Or does your lack of paper and files in your office tell clients that you aren’t very busy, and as a result that you aren’t very good?

Oh how I wish I knew the answers to these questions!

I used to feel like putting all my diplomas on the wall was stupid, and like bragging.  Besides, I’d written a book!  I didn’t need to explain my credentials to anyone.

Ah, youth!

Then I went to the dentist. He was putting a crown on my tooth. This was my first major dental work (thanks to my father being a dentist and working on the team that developed Crest toothpaste!) and I was scared.  I looked up at the wall and saw the certificates, awards, continuing education program completition certificates and membership in professional organizations and immediately felt better. My dentist cares about what he does! He keeps up with his continuing education! He is involved with professional organizations!  He’s a mindful practitioner!  What a relief.

So I went back to the office and put up my own “wall of fame.”  After all, we’re dealing with one of life’s most important transitions, and people’s futures.  As divorce mediators, we deal with everything people give a care about in the entire world–their children, their savings, their hopes and dreams for their marriage or partnership… I can put a few certificates on the way to silently say that I care and that I believe in what I do.

Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010). Join the conversation and community on our video blog and check out Diana’s divorce blog on the Huffington Post

Sep 2011 15

This post is not about divorce mediation.

It’s about being a business person who happens to run a mediation firm (or anything else). If you’re going to run a business, you must first be a business person and business owner and then you’re a __________ (fill in the blank).  If you’re a mediator first, and a business person second, you’re in trouble. And that goes for any kind of business, from sock manufacturer to dog trainer.

Garnett Newcombe’s business is Human Potential Consultants. She competed with me in the Make Mine a Million $ Business contest in 2006 and we were both winners.  Garnett implemented just a few of the resources she had access to through the Make Mine a Million program and grew her revenue exponentially in just a few months. Like $450,000 to $5 million.  I am not kidding. It didn’t require a complete overhaul of her business, just a little coaching and a new phone system. 

Pretty amazing.

Of course, the elbow grease was her own (and her team’s).  Not to mention that she had a good idea to begin with.  But at the end of the day, there aren’t really any get rich quick schemes.  But the M3 program helped Garnett turned her diamond in the rough into the shimmering jewel it is!

Look at the video for her story.

Nell Merlino, the creative force behind Take Our Daughters to Work Day, started Make Mine a Million to help 1 million women owned businesses get to $1 million in revenue. You can participate in the program by signing up for free! Participate on line, or attend one of the in-person events.

Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010). Join the conversation and community on our video blog and check out Diana’s divorce blog on the Huffington Post

Sep 2011 05

My mom died January 1, 2010. Within about 6 weeks my dad was engaged to be married….to one of her best friends.  Needless to say, this sent a shock wave through our family. If you’ve been following Project Vic on this blog, you’ve seen how difficult it has been for my brother and me to navigate all of this…the loss of our mother, the rocky relationship with our father, and now the question of how the heck someone can get engaged in 6 weeks after being married 55 years.

The good news is that Bea, my father’s fiancee, is lovely.  We’ve started calling her Mom 2.0 and I think she’s embraced our now-blended family pretty well.

She came to the book signing party for Making Divorce Work in Indianapolis in 2011 and was just a delight. The video shares her thoughts about the experience and the party. 

My brother and I would rather have our mom back, but Bea is a great second choice.

Now we just wonder how long it will take her to realize that our dad, Vic, is actually a “project” and to realize exactly what she’s in for if they actually get married.  Hmmmmm….

The truth and reality of life is that families are what you make of them.  We could let all of this ruin our lives, or we can choose to move on.

And move on we have.  My brother is newly married at 53 with a baby on the way. His youngest child just graduated from college. My husband is Jewish and I was raised Presbyterian. Bea’s son is disabled.  Yet we all come together as a family. Sometimes more successfully than others, but we’re still family.

And that’s the mesage I try to convey to our mediation clients.  Parents with a 2 year old hear, “You’ve got to figure this out, because you are going to be co-grandparents.” And I’m not just saying that to convince them to settle or to mediate their differences–it’s true.  It’s a little hard to hear when you have a toddler, I suppose, but once you’ve chosen to marry and have children, you’re just adding additional squares to the patchwork quilt that’s already your family.

Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010). Join the conversation and community on our video blog and check out Diana’s divorce blog on the Huffington Post

Whatever it Takes (Balloons):
Aug 2011 12

There is a lot of fighting among mediators (nobody can fight like mediators!) as to what is “the” correct way to mediate.

Should you be directive, and tell clients what will probably happen in court anyway, and then muscle them into agreement?

Should you be facilitative, and let them have a free flowing discussion?

Should you be transformative, and guide the participants to a new level of understanding of their situation and role in the process?

Or all three?  How do you mediate for success?

I’ve never really tried to shoehorn Peace Talks or myself into a particular category. My style is that if participants are having a great discussion, it’s my job to get out of the way. If they need a nudge in the right direction, it’s my job to make a suggestion.

The process is designed around them, not just our Peace Talks Mediator Handbook.

I got a surprise, though, when a very nice set of clients came in a couple of months ago. They were amicable; they’d been married a long time and just wanted to be fair with each other.  We see that a lot at Peace Talks:  really nice people having the worst day of their life and just trying to do the right thing.

Where this case became different, though, is when the husband decided he needed to take a break from the proceedings and he laid down on the floor. Not to be derailed, I got him a blanket.

When he woke up (I’m pretty sure he fell asleep) he knew that what he needed to do to keep himself calm was to……blow up balloons and bat them around the room.

That was a first for me. And I thought in 23 years I’d seen it all. Maybe now I’ve seen it all, but who knows?

And I learned something that day, as I batted balloons around with him, my co-mediator (a very patient Stephanie Maloney, CDFA) and even his wife, who was also rolling with the punches.

I learned that:

  • Mediators need to be ready to do whatever it takes to help people settle a case, even if it’s outside their comfort zone
  • Mediators need to embrace participants who know what they need and aren’t too shy to ask for it.  We need to listen and let clients do what they need to do (within reason, of course)
  • Mediators need to loosen up their ideas of “the” right way to do mediation and adapt to the participants’ needs.

Of course, if the balloons and nap had made the wife uncomfortable we may have needed to take different action. But since it didn’t, we needed to step outside our own comfort zone and adapt to what the participants’ needed.

It’s not about us, it’s about them.

And they settled.

And yes,  got their permission to share their story in a confidential way.

Not sure you believe me? Watch the video!

Aug 2011 11

I’ve had so many friends ask me divorce advice that I finally started compiling my best tips. Well, they must be pretty good tips because they made the Huffington Post’s headline today!

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