Forum Summary


Our discussion will center around the important, yet often ignored, world of apology and forgiveness in disputes.  Just last week Anita Hill received
a voice mail asking her to apologize to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence
Thomas for events that transpired nearly 20 years ago.  The need for
apology and forgiveness are often are at the center of disputes, yet the
legal system, as it is currently configured, is not well
designed to facilitate either one  In the dispute resolution
world, there is greater awareness of the importance of apology and
forgiveness, but here too, professionals are largely ill-equipped. 
All of this is, of course, compounded when the parties and mediator are
using online means.  This discussion will examine this world of apology and
forgiveness in dispute resolution, and in online mediation.



Case Scenario

Please review the following case used to enhance this discussion:
Ecotourism media effects case.pdf



Moderator Bio
s

Sam Edwards, J.D., LL.M.

Associate Professor Environmental Law and Policy

Green Mountain College

1 Brennan Circle

Poultney, VT 05764

edwardss@greenmtn.edu

Sam has been teaching negotiation at the graduate and undergraduate levels since 2002. From 2002-2007 he taught at Nagoya University's Graduate School of Law in Nagoya Japan. In 2007 he moved to Green Mountain College in Vermont where he teaches negotiation and a variety of law courses.


Sam has an LL.M. in international environmental law from Nagoya University Graduate School of law and a J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School. Sam is licensed to practice law in California, Guam, The Commonwealth of the Northern

Mariana Islands, and Yap State in the Federated States of Micronesia.


His research stems from his work in Micronesia, Japan, and Africa. His publications include:

Sam Edwards, Doing international business online for the small and medium business: will e-payments and online dispute resolution open doors to international trade, in CYBERLAW FOR GLOBAL E-BUSINESS: FINANCE, PAYMENTS, AND DISPUTE RESOLUTION Chapter 16 (Takashi Kubota ed., 2008).


Eileen Barker


Eileen Barker is a mediator and teacher based in San Rafael, CA.   Over the past twenty years, Eileen has mediated hundreds of cases in a wide range of subject matters including business, partnership, employment/workplace, probate and estates, and family law/divorce.  She has taught mediation and conflict resolution courses at UC Berkeley School of Law, UC Hastings College of Law, Sonoma State University and John F. Kennedy University, and currently teaches at the Werner Institute, Creighton University.  Eileen is a leader in the movement to integrate emotional healing and  forgiveness with conflict resolution. She leads trainings on transforming conflict through forgiveness, and is the author of the Forgiveness Workbook and Forgiveness Meditation CD.



Michael Cote


Environmental Urban Planner
3 Hampton Ave #47
Northampton, Mass., 01060
Phone: (206) 550-3034
Email: michaelcote@gmail.com
Web: http://umass.academia.edu/MichaelCote


Michael Cote is an environmental planner specializing in Climate Change Adaptation for coastal communities. He is working on a book and several articles covering the intersection of land-use law and climate adaptation policy. Adapting to climate change involves complex land-use laws, private property rights, and intense negotiations. He attended the negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen this past   December with the Vermont Law School delegation. A corporate-contract writer in a former life, Mr. Cote recently graduated with a Masters in Regional Planning from UMass-Amherst, and a Masters in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law.




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Given the scenario what online platforms offer the best system to help facilitate an apology? Would text only offer a "safe" way to get the apology across? Would a pre-recorded voice message be better? Would live video work best?


Sam Edwards said:
Given the scenario what online platforms offer the best system to help facilitate an apology? Would text only offer a "safe" way to get the apology across? Would a pre-recorded voice message be better? Would live video work best?
The use of technology throughout the dispute resolution process itself requires those involved to choose their means of communication carefully. Depending on the forum chosen, parties have to choose their words and phrases with caution, especially during instances where communication is solely text based, but also during telephone or recorded voice message communications and live video. During text- based ODR, it can be difficult to create trust between the parties, and there is the risk that something typed will be misinterpreted. These issues are present, and perhaps more compounded, in an apology setting, where it is possible that one party may doubt the sincerity of the other side’s apology, or there is the potential for an apology to come across crass or incomplete. A pre-recorded voice message would also run the risk of sounding insincere and rehearsed. Like a written apology, a recorded voice message may be received poorly, and cause the receiving party to feel as though his or her issues were not completely resolved. A live video apology may work best, as it would enable both parties to see each other’s body language and facial expressions. It would also allow for more of a dialogue during the apology. A live video apology has the feeling of a real face to face meeting, and helps create a more satisfying apology for the receiving party, as there is not the appearance that the apologizing party is hiding behind closed doors.
Good observations. Are there times when a "live" apology is not advisable? In international cases the expectation about what constitutes a good apology are perhaps different.

In Japan for example many apologies are clearly "canned" yet are important to the smooth functioning of society. It is common to see top executives at a disgraced company bowing to the cameras. In fact, canned corporate apologies are expected in many cases.

In those situations would a pre-recorded statement, voice, or video work better than a live one? To put this another way, are the expectations about what constitutes a "proper" apology different across cultures? (For a great discussion about culture in ODR check out the companion forum here; http://adrhub.com/forum/topics/media-effects-online-2)
I suppose that is where this case gets interesting. In my view, a live apology is the only way I would accept it. I look at pre-written apologies as halfhearted. However, there are couple different cultures at work here. Regardless, I think a video is the best way to go. Being able to see their sincerity will help this process tremendously. If both parties have an interest of continuing business, I think a live video chat would help in the long term relationship of the of the partnership. Getting the group together may get the group to trust each other. I would think this would be a little different if this were a smaller transactional mediation. Such an elaborate apology may not be needed.
In my opinion, an online platform can not replace the emotional recognition and response of a face-to-face meeting, which I consider important components in interpreting the integrity of an apology. However, in the case of Anita Hill, as presented above, I think you have to consider what is the intent of the apology? Is it for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas personally? Or, is the apology more for the public, or an acceptance of wrongdoing for the media, than the individual?

To avoid misinterpretation of the message, regardless of intended audience, a platform that offers video conferencing offers the most advantageous environment for communicating an apology, since it allows the transmission of verbal and non-verbal cues. This allows participants a shared channel for emotional recognition and response, an opportunity to validate the intent of the apology.
One way of looking at apology (in my own book of course) is to differentiate between demanded apologies (whether "I want her to pay me X and apologize for what she did" or "What do I want? Fo him to take responsibility, apologize, and then we might be able to work this out!") and voluntarily-initiated apologies.

When a party demands an apology (whether in an online or face-to-face setting) I always try to find an opportunity to ask exactly what they mean by that. What do they want to hear? What do they want to see the other 'giving'? wWat emotion do they want to lay to rest, and what emotion would they like to see the other emoting in order to do that?

The same questions (in different formats) arise in cases where a voluntarily-initiated apology was made - but rejected by the other side. Was it rejected so as not to lose claims to monetary or other compensation? So as not to let the other off the hook before something more tangible is offered? Or - due to something being 'off' in the apology from the receiver's point of view: tone, wording, authenticity, timing, etc.

So, in addition to looking at the questions posed in the forum by Sam and others from the apologizer's side (e.g., what media can get my intent over as clearly as possible) we might look at this from the receiver's side (e.g., what do you need to receive in terms of apology) - and connect, that too, to the question of medium. "I want it to be very clear that she assumes full responsibility and undertakes never to do that again" might be conveyed adequately by several media, and most accurately perhaps by some of those; "I want him to look me in the eye and to hear him say he is is very, very sorry" might give us cues to utilize other types of media.
Very good discussions. Apologies are often at the center of disputes yet "apology" is not a clear term. Does it mean different things in different cultures? Does is mean different things to the receiver and giver?

A canned text response might work in one context but be detrimental in another. Adapting the apology to the context of the mediation and matching it with the online medium presents the challenge to the mediator.

Another area we have yet to address is forgiveness. Researchers agree that there are many benefits (health, spiritual, etc) to giving forgiveness. Given the importance to the giver should mediation focus on forgiveness in the process? How would this work online? Would the communication of the forgiveness work best with a live video? Are there cases when more distance such as through a text message would benefit the mediation?
My, this is a rich discussion! I have to admit find it challenging to grapple with what will work best online, regarding apology and forgiveness, when we are just beginning (in my opinion) to understand how to effectively work with apology and forgiveness in mediation at all.

Noam's questions are right on target -- what are the underlying needs that are being expressed when someone demands an apology and/or refuses to accept one? What is needed to make an apology effective? And, as Sam points out, how does all this vary culturally?

The better able we are to answer those questions, the better able we will be to adapt to the online world. That said, I have to agree with those who vote in favor on video conferencing for most cases, as its the closest we have to a live simulation. It also strikes me that in a serious/substantial dispute with alot at stake, one way to underscore sincerity would be for someone to get on a plane and meet face-to-face. That would be a very powerful way to convey: "I'm taking this seriously. It matters. I care." In my experience, if you can convey these three things -- which can be text, pre-recorded video, carrier pidgeon, etc. -- everything else is a small detail. And if you fail to convey these things, you can stand on your head and do everything "right" and it will fall flat.
Forgiveness in mediation is a very sensitive topic. Unlike apology, forgiveness is not primarily a "transactional" affair between 2 or more people, but rather something that each person does or does not do for his/her own individual benefit. As you rightly point out, the benefits of forgiveness are profound

However, where it can apply in mediation is as a response to an apology, a way of saying "apology accepted, I release my anger and resentment, I forgive you . . . " LIke an apology this has to be absolutely authentic to have any real value. And, like an apology, if it is sincere, it can probably be effectively communicated in all of the same ways.

I'm curiour as to whether others of you have had experiences where this sort of exchange occurred between the parties? Either live or online?



Sam Edwards said:
Very good discussions. Apologies are often at the center of disputes yet "apology" is not a clear term. Does it mean different things in different cultures? Does is mean different things to the receiver and giver?

A canned text response might work in one context but be detrimental in another. Adapting the apology to the context of the mediation and matching it with the online medium presents the challenge to the mediator.

Another area we have yet to address is forgiveness. Researchers agree that there are many benefits (health, spiritual, etc) to giving forgiveness. Given the importance to the giver should mediation focus on forgiveness in the process? How would this work online? Would the communication of the forgiveness work best with a live video? Are there cases when more distance such as through a text message would benefit the mediation?
Eileen - I've certainly see this in micro-fights embedded in larger disputes. I'm referring to those incidents where someone says something that triggers the other off, and the conversation spirals. At some point (often - after mediator intervention) the 'triggerer' understands why this went wrong and instead of trying to reiterate why what they meant was really right, they accept that they used the wrong words/tone/timing and conveyed the wrong intent. They add on a note of apology for the incident to the responsibility-taking.

Sound familiar?

In face-to-face situations, this can develop two ways. First, it can be a micro-example of the damages of bad communication and the benefits of good communication. It even has potential as a transformative moment, with one party recognizing the other as being damaged by their words, and the other being empowered by said recognition. In some of those cases, micro-forgiveness - a true release, to use Eileen's term, of any anger or benefit-to-be-gained - occurs. However, often (and, I think, more often, such scenes end with the offended party muttering "Well; you shouldn't have said it, then!" and the mediator putting on a smile that is slightly too wide for comfort and saying "There now, we've laid that issue to rest".

Online, although such situations come up often and often flare up to extremely volatile levels, I've noticed that once a real explanation is made, with some placating tone or even a chunk of apology (which can sometimes be quite profuse in text-based communication in these situations) - if it is accepted, it is quite likely to be accepted for real, with full micro-forgiveness. I've seen some very profuse acceptance letters ("I understand you had no intention of...") sometimes including an apology ("I really read that the wrong way and I was too quick to retaliate") or a demi-apology ("Maybe I jumped the gun on that one")

I think this all has to do with several elements of text-based communication: Reduced physical and social presence reducing arousal, asynchronicity and its sometimes cool-off effect, the ability to be very precise in the explanation and the apology if given, the record which enables the offended party to scroll back and reconstruct the conversation with the additional information they were just offered to see if it checks out, the ability to read and re-read an explanation and/or an apology several times to see if it is satisfactory - these are all just my initial ideas, I'd love to hear some more.

I realize that your question, Eileen touches on more important, formidable, full-fledged apologies - but it seems to me as if one thing I'm doing a lot of this Cyberweek is addressing small corners of questions raised by people who know so much about the different forum topics, in order to try and get my own head around a corner of their world...



Eileen Barker said:
Forgiveness in mediation is a very sensitive topic. Unlike apology, forgiveness is not primarily a "transactional" affair between 2 or more people, but rather something that each person does or does not do for his/her own individual benefit. As you rightly point out, the benefits of forgiveness are profound

However, where it can apply in mediation is as a response to an apology, a way of saying "apology accepted, I release my anger and resentment, I forgive you . . . " LIke an apology this has to be absolutely authentic to have any real value. And, like an apology, if it is sincere, it can probably be effectively communicated in all of the same ways.

I'm curiour as to whether others of you have had experiences where this sort of exchange occurred between the parties? Either live or online?
Hi Noam! Hope you are well:)

While I agree with your assessment of demanded vs. voluntary apologies I am unclear as to the prerequisites of getting to that point. If someone wants to voluntarily apologize yet they don't meet the expectations of the receiver what then? What if this has been an ongoing mediation over a divorce involving adultery and the adulterer finally wishes to confess and move the process forward and in their best manner (known to them) they offer the apology which is rejected (maybe because of the emotions it has invoked or recognition by the receiver they are no longer loved by the apologizer), what then?

To me, it then not only becomes an issue of demanded vs. voluntary apology but also demanded vs. voluntary forgiveness which is very different from an apology. In other words, we now have a conflict within a conflict (I think I've learned about this in some NDR class I took awhile back;)) not only is there the dispute that is the center of everyone's attention, but now there is a dispute over the way an apology was given/received. So, it wouldn't matter whether the apology was verbal, oral, online or through any other sort of medium discussed here - if there's not a reconciliation component then it's moot.

That's my two cents - I have studying to do and really shouldn't be squandering my time on ADRhub;)

Kim


Noam Ebner said:
One way of looking at apology (in my own book of course) is to differentiate between demanded apologies (whether "I want her to pay me X and apologize for what she did" or "What do I want? Fo him to take responsibility, apologize, and then we might be able to work this out!") and voluntarily-initiated apologies.

When a party demands an apology (whether in an online or face-to-face setting) I always try to find an opportunity to ask exactly what they mean by that. What do they want to hear? What do they want to see the other 'giving'? wWat emotion do they want to lay to rest, and what emotion would they like to see the other emoting in order to do that?

The same questions (in different formats) arise in cases where a voluntarily-initiated apology was made - but rejected by the other side. Was it rejected so as not to lose claims to monetary or other compensation? So as not to let the other off the hook before something more tangible is offered? Or - due to something being 'off' in the apology from the receiver's point of view: tone, wording, authenticity, timing, etc.

So, in addition to looking at the questions posed in the forum by Sam and others from the apologizer's side (e.g., what media can get my intent over as clearly as possible) we might look at this from the receiver's side (e.g., what do you need to receive in terms of apology) - and connect, that too, to the question of medium. "I want it to be very clear that she assumes full responsibility and undertakes never to do that again" might be conveyed adequately by several media, and most accurately perhaps by some of those; "I want him to look me in the eye and to hear him say he is is very, very sorry" might give us cues to utilize other types of media.
Squander away Kim! Great to see you!

I'll hit you back with my own two cents (even, really, one) and I'm sure others here have more and more informed input.

In my view, the choice of medium affects the chances of an apology to be accepted
through a dozen mediating factors (it affects the degree of interparty trust, the salience of body language and its interpretation, the arousal (not always positive!) associated with low physical and social presence, the contentiousness associated with low social presence and more). It does not determine, in its ownself, whether an apology will be accepted - with some degree of forgiveness ensuing, but it affects the chances of this occuring. by one percent, or by twenty percent - I don't know. I think a lot of people here in the forum would like to know the answer to that one, and I hope they'll pitch in their opinion.

On the larger question you posed, "What then?" - I think you hit the nail on the head. Apologies can result in forgiveness, they can result in exacerbated conflict and along the line they can result in conflict-within-a-conflict. At that stage, as you say, the particular choice of medium is certainly not the most important variable at play. What then? I bet you know my answer: Deal with it.
:-)



Kim Hubble said:
Hi Noam! Hope you are well:)

While I agree with your assessment of demanded vs. voluntary apologies I am unclear as to the prerequisites of getting to that point. If someone wants to voluntarily apologize yet they don't meet the expectations of the receiver what then? What if this has been an ongoing mediation over a divorce involving adultery and the adulterer finally wishes to confess and move the process forward and in their best manner (known to them) they offer the apology which is rejected (maybe because of the emotions it has invoked or recognition by the receiver they are no longer loved by the apologizer), what then?

To me, it then not only becomes an issue of demanded vs. voluntary apology but also demanded vs. voluntary forgiveness which is very different from an apology. In other words, we now have a conflict within a conflict (I think I've learned about this in some NDR class I took awhile back;)) not only is there the dispute that is the center of everyone's attention, but now there is a dispute over the way an apology was given/received. So, it wouldn't matter whether the apology was verbal, oral, online or through any other sort of medium discussed here - if there's not a reconciliation component then it's moot.

That's my two cents - I have studying to do and really shouldn't be squandering my time on ADRhub;)

Kim


Noam Ebner said:
One way of looking at apology (in my own book of course) is to differentiate between demanded apologies (whether "I want her to pay me X and apologize for what she did" or "What do I want? Fo him to take responsibility, apologize, and then we might be able to work this out!") and voluntarily-initiated apologies.

When a party demands an apology (whether in an online or face-to-face setting) I always try to find an opportunity to ask exactly what they mean by that. What do they want to hear? What do they want to see the other 'giving'? wWat emotion do they want to lay to rest, and what emotion would they like to see the other emoting in order to do that?

The same questions (in different formats) arise in cases where a voluntarily-initiated apology was made - but rejected by the other side. Was it rejected so as not to lose claims to monetary or other compensation? So as not to let the other off the hook before something more tangible is offered? Or - due to something being 'off' in the apology from the receiver's point of view: tone, wording, authenticity, timing, etc.

So, in addition to looking at the questions posed in the forum by Sam and others from the apologizer's side (e.g., what media can get my intent over as clearly as possible) we might look at this from the receiver's side (e.g., what do you need to receive in terms of apology) - and connect, that too, to the question of medium. "I want it to be very clear that she assumes full responsibility and undertakes never to do that again" might be conveyed adequately by several media, and most accurately perhaps by some of those; "I want him to look me in the eye and to hear him say he is is very, very sorry" might give us cues to utilize other types of media.

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