On candystores and mediation orthodoxy.

Yesterday I blogged about sugary cereals.  Here's more on the confectionary theme, and an explanation of the provenance of my own unmanageable sweet tooth.


My grandfather, Luther, was a Pennsylvania Dutch farmer, married to my grandmother, Thelma, a Welsh woman who was afraid of animals.  Respecting Thelma's fear of being pecked, scratched, or gored, Luther got out of the farming racket and did odd jobs (from gravedigging to electrical work) to pay the bills.  Luther and Thelma eventually ended up working in a candy store together...an old-timey shop that sold penny candy, bulk candy, and homemade chocolate candy.  If you gave my grandparents virtually any item of food -- from potato chips to pickles to bacon -- they would bring it home covered in chocolate.  Pretty much everything covered with chocolate -- like everything fried -- tastes good.


Not a bad childhood for me, what with daily and unrestricted access to Twizzlers and Snickers and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Necco Wafers (choked on one of those once, which my mom is quick to remind me) and Turkish Taffy and Three Muskateers and  JuJu Beebs and and Junior Mints and Golberg's Peanut Chews and Good & Plenties and Baby Ruths and Neslte's Crunch and Red Hot Tamales and Sno-Caps and Crackles and Pop Rocks and Jawbreakers and Nibs and...you get the picture.  My parents readily enabled this 17-year sugar binge, hoping it would put some schpeck on my scrawny ribs, as Luther would have said.


(Visiting the famous Economy Candy on the Lower East Side never fails to send me into a Proustian reverie.)


The kid-in-a-candystore ethos, to my mind, is a great approach to developing one's voice as a mediator.  I'm not so keen on the binary logic that's somewhat prevalent in our field. To wit: either you're a transformative mediator, or you're not.  No middle ground, no space to mix up the models.  The debate over what silo we house our practice in has all too often eclipsed our ability to draw from different approaches, to hybridize, and to become a unified movement.


So if we have to label our style of mediation at New York Peace Institute, we'd say it's facilitative.  The mediator makes no decisions, offers no advice, and adds no content -- but controls the process and its flow, in deference to parties' self-determination.  However, we're also heavily influenced by our transformative brothers and sisters, with emphases on reflection, highlighting differences, and not being outcome-driven.  And we've happily drawn from practices from our colleagues all over the country and oversees (stay tuned for a post on how we've learned from mediators abroad).


While there's a great value in discussing the attributes of different approaches, there's also a diminishing return on dickering over whose modality works best.  So let's be candystore kids, filling up our bags with whatever assortment of ideas tantalizes our mediator palates.

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