I can’t say I was a great actor or even a good one. I have to leave that to other people. But I worked. Stage, Film, TV, Commercials, Radio. Twenty-five years of getting paid to pretend to be other people. Since the essence of drama is conflict, many of the people I played were in conflict with someone or something else. That was great preparation for mediation because they all had different reasons for their conflicts.

One thing most people may not know about acting is that it is one of the most disciplined crafts in the world. You have to show up, on time, and be ready to work at all times of the day and night. And when I say “show up” I mean you have to be present. Focused. All senses buzzing and concentrated on whatever your character’s goal is. Being present as a mediator I’ve found means being ready for anything while being able to submerge my biases as I am being challenged, and maintaining the Holy Grail of neutrality come what may. That, for me, is being present. Which brings me to last week.

Last week I mediated a case for the Sacramento Superior Court virtually and due to the very individual nature of one of the parties, I had to make a decision. I had to be present. I was there to help these neighbors resolve their differences peacefully. I first listened to the Petitioner who was trying to extend her temporary restraining order. She presented as tough and unemotional. She said that she had had enough of her neighbor banging on her house at all hours, shouting in the early morning, and scaring her children. At one point she described him as schizophrenic. I immediately thought she was not qualified to make that diagnosis and to keep an open mind. But when his turn came to talk, it didn’t take long to discern that he was indeed challenged. He spoke in an irrational manner about her making his house shake, and stealing her phone password daily. Although he insisted he was “mild-mannered”, his behavior had alarmed the Petitioner enough to request an extension to the restraining order. At the end of our mediation, she was crying.

What would you have done? Why do you think she was crying? Please put your thoughts in the comment box, and I’ll tell you what I did and why I did it next week. And I’ll tell you why she was crying.

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