I have known Ken Fuller for over 30 years. During my basic mediation training, the first mediation I was privileged to observe was one with Ken Fuller as the mediator. It was a stunning learning experience. I learned the following important points from Ken:
- Build trust, Rapport and Connection Points. Ken explained that the key skill of a successful mediator is the ability to establish trust, build connection points and develop rapport-a relationship of empathy and understanding with each of the parties. A sense of connection can encourage parties to communicate fully with the mediator, often providing the mediator with information needed to find a mutually acceptable settlement. Rapport is essential to building the trust needed for the parties to share interests, priorities, fears and weaknesses. Ken said this information is often the key to settlement, “their telling me what they haven’t told the other party.” Of course, you must get permission to on how and when to share this information.
- Option development and Creativity. Ken taught me that another key talent of successful mediators is creativity, the ability to think outside the box and generate novel options and solutions. This ability clearly springs from a focus on interests, the reasons why a party wants what they want. The stated want of a specific car is more about the interest of having safe, dependable and affordable transportation than the desire for a specific vehicle. Only by discovering and understanding each party’s interests, can a mediator generate creative solutions to satisfy each party. Inventing options that acknowledge feelings, self-esteem, perceptions and hurts is essential to a meaningful and acceptable resolution. In the case were I shadowed Ken, we talked in between rooms and said, “The issue is not about the party’s position of wanting a certain item of property, it is about control.”
- 3. Patience. Patience is really hard to develop and maintain. Without patience, a mediator gets nowhere. Listen to each party, let them vent, then acknowledge that you have heard them and understand. In the U. S. Marine Corps, Ken and I learned patience and to be tenacious. Marines do not give up or retreat, Marines learn to fight in a different direction. When the parties learn that the mediator is patient, will listen and not give up, the parties will hang in there longer because the mediator gives them hope. Ken told one party, “If I take that proposal to the other room, your spouse will scream like a gut shot panther. Do you think that would be productive? Now let’s think on this some more and figure out a way to restate your offer so it might become a sack of groceries that your spouse might buy.” You have to love Ken, what a smart and passionate man.
- 4. Do No Harm. Mediators must think before they speak. Mediators must remain neutral. Mediators must provide a psychological and physical sense of safety. Years ago during the Advanced Family Law Course in Dallas, Ken invited about 20 lawyers to come to the Dallas Gun Club and shoot sporting clays. Ken said to me, “Mike, we know these guys as lawyers, but not has hunters. I am appointing you the gun safety officer.” I took my assignment seriously, checking to see if the guns where on “safe.” Five different times they were not. Ken may have prevented injury or death that day. Ken was serious about Do No Harm.
Semper Fi Ken