October is Conflict Resolution Month – A Reminder “It’s About the Resolution, Not the Conflict”

Published: October 2019

By: Theodore A. Deckert

For over a decade, various professional organizations and governments around the world have chosen to recognize the importance of peaceful conflict resolution practices during the month of October.  The Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) in 2005 established the third Thursday in October as “Conflict Resolution Day” which this year is October 17th.  Mediation Week this year is October 13-19.  For history and context see prior October issues of The Bar Bulletin at http://www.palmbeachbar.org/adr.  For several years I have had the honor of writing about these events and highlighting our bar association ADR Committee’s activities promoting ADR in our community.  Last year the American Bar Association declared the Mediation Week theme as “Mediation, Civil Discourse, and ABA 2011 Resolution 108”, which reminded us that the current toxic environment of political and social discourse in our country existed back in 2011.  My article last year expanded on that theme and also addressed a tool to help de-escalate the emotions that inhibit civil social discourse.  Since the state of “public discourse” arguably has continued to deteriorate you may want to review last year’s article at https://view.joomag.com/pbcba-bar-bulletins-pbcba-bulletin-october-2018/0953159001538414829?short (See Page 7).

Our ADR Committee each year presents special events and programs to celebrate Conflict Resolution Month and Mediation Week. We obtain government proclamations, sponsor student competitions and provide speakers to civic and other organizations.  This year we have chosen “Win-Win through Mediation” as the theme for our school competition and expanded it to include essay and video categories.  The contest has been opened up to all high school students and the top three winners in each category, and their teachers, will each receive cash prizes of $200-100-50 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.  The prizes will be awarded at the October Palm Beach County School Board meeting. The winning students and teachers also will be featured in the Bar Bulletin and on our association website.  Thank you to committee members Jeff Marcus and Bruce Blitman for their hard work in expanding and promoting the contest and to Jay Hunston, Jr. and Sandy Myers for underwriting the cash prizes.

This year the ADR Committee has again arranged for proclamations recognizing Mediation Week not only by the County Commission and School Board, but also by 15 municipalities.  Committee Chair Rosine Plank-Brumback and other committee members appear before the various commissions to accept the proclamations and promote ADR and our bar association.  Congratulations and thanks to committee members Lawrence Gordon and Laura Starr for expanding the participation of our local governments.

This year will be the second year the committee will present a lunch time seminar on Conflict Resolution Day (October 17) at the bar association office. The topic “Navigating Complex Mediations” has been approved by the Florida Bar for 2.0 CLER hours.  The presenters will be committee members Lawrence Gordon, Jay Hunston, Jr. and Retired Judge Kenneth Stern.  Register at the Bar Association website by clicking on https://apps.palmbeachbar.org/calendar/register/?eventno=3025 .  The committee acknowledges and thanks Banyan Treatment Centers and Phipps Reporting for sponsoring this seminar.  Please also see the Flier in the Bulletin for details about the 17th Annual ADR Seminar the committee will present at the bar association offices on February 10, 2020.

The committee continues to have speakers available to address professional or community organizations about mediation and ADR in general, not only during October, but year round.   Anyone who knows a group that would like someone to speak about ADR should email Jeff Marcus at jmarcus0320@gmail.com.  Please also check out the ADR Committee webpage at http://www.palmbeachbar.org/adr for other resources about mediation and ADR.

I want to close my article by explaining its title.  Every person is unique and perceives reality in their own way, based upon their individual attributes and life experiences.  We are in a time in which many of our “leaders” or “leader wanna bes” focus their sound bites and tweets on our differences.  As a result, disagreements have grown into conflicts throughout our nation, even among friends and families. This does not promote meaningful dialogue directed toward resolving disagreements in a manner acceptable to each side.  If we are to achieve “resolution” of the issues in our society, we need to make the effort to better understand how the “other side” sees the issue so that we can work toward solutions that most effectively fulfill the wants and needs of “both sides.”

“Seek first to understand and then to be understood” is one of the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” developed by the renowned author and lecturer Steven Covey.  We can all help reduce conflict and improve the prospect for resolution if we practice this habit whenever we have the opportunity.  Before trying to convince another they are wrong, give them the opportunity to explain their viewpoint.  You will not only show them you care about them and value their viewpoint, you also will learn how to better express your viewpoint in a way that focuses on the interests and concerns you both share.  It is through this shared focus that meaningful and effective “resolution” of conflict is achieved.

Theodore A. Deckert, Esq. is a Past Chair of the Palm Beach County Bar Association ADR Committee and a Past President of The Florida Academy of Professional Mediators. He has been a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil & Family Mediator since 2000 and he has been a full time Mediator and Third Party Neutral affiliated with Matrix Mediation LLC since 2008.  Prior to becoming a full time mediator, he was a civil trial attorney since 1976 and a Florida Bar Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer for 25 years.  He has helped thousands of people resolve virtually every type of civil dispute.  For more information email him at ted@matrixmediation.com  or go to www.matrixmediation.com

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