Friday, March 4, 2011

Safe and Neutral: My Infinite Gratitude

Sometimes I am reminded how human I am. Last night was the most explosively angry I have been in a long time. I am so passionate about what I do. I am so grateful for all the support I get in my life. To know that even when I explode, people will still have my back was one of the most truly awe-inspiring moments of my life.

Let me explain. Fight Club (Conflict Resolution Club) has been working hard with the IGR (Intergroup Relations) facilitators on setting up a students-only dialogue about the campus climate. It has been difficult because I have not appreciated parts of their approach. I feel that their focus on identity takes away from the humanity of the people in the room. Some parts of their approach are antithetical to how I have been trained. Last night I couldn’t hold it in anymore.

I tried calmly to explain myself, and I tried so hard to show them how I approached mediation and conflict resolution in general. And they tried to explain their process back. I couldn’t hear them, and they couldn’t hear me. It came to a head and I had to leave, just to gather my thoughts. I wasn’t leaving until it was resolved, but a break was so necessary.

That was the moment I knew I had friends as dedicated as me to the process; people willing to work with me to save what we had and to use our skills to help people. Johanna first came to find me, then Tara. We went to Ladd 307, the large lecture hall for the Government Department, and talked about our thoughts. I calmed down a little. We set a position—always a bad idea, but nonetheless relevant—and walked back to the discussion.

Before we could enter the room, Natalie stopped us and talked to us. She said she would step out of the discussion and act as a mediator. It was informal, quick and potent. The immediate shift to having a mediator in the room that could be a neutral third party saved me. It gave me the power to say exactly what was on my mind. And in one instance to scream it. I have not been that angry or disenfranchised in my adult life. I scared myself. To say I screamed is to put it lightly.

And Natalie was awesome. She kicked into mediator mode, reflected what I said, and told me everything back. It was beautiful; our process in action, solving problems. And it finally showed the IGR facilitators what we were capable of. It was so hard. Mediators truly allow people to communicate with each other.

After the meeting Natalie, Tara, Chris, and I went and chilled until 2:30 am at Chris’s. It was the best debrief ever. I am so grateful that they are there for me. They are dedicated to what we do and as good as if not better than me. I am truly humbled by the strength they all have shown in the last 36 hours.

And I learned that we have a war to wage. This is going to be our lives, perpetually on the outside; facing skepticism of the deepest magnitude. Only through using the process as both mediators and mediated will we be able to show people the value in what we do. I am ok with fighting for this for the rest of my life.