Mediation has settled government disputes for decades. Just yesterday, leaders of Greece and Macedonia met with a neutral mediator to discuss a spat than began in 1991. Whether it’s entire countries or thousands of public educators and state officials in Arizona, mediation can diffuse and resolve the most heated oppositions.
It’s not too late to use mediation to resolve the Arizona teacher walkout. Here are four game-changing ways that mediation could result in resolution.
First, mediation would allow direct communication between Gov. Ducey and decision-makers representing Arizona Educators United. In mediation, the act of “showing up” means the parties are already halfway to reaching full agreements. Although certain points of contention require action from Arizona’s legislature, mediation could produce meaningful agreements on enough issues to temporarily resolve the current crisis.
Second, mediation would positively shift the language and tone of the current rhetoric. Currently, the conversation is dominated by gamesmanship and sound bites. Divorcing parents use indirect text messages, emails, and social media to fight over their children, inflaming the situation. The emotions change once seated in the mediation room.
When face-to-face, a neutral party can strategically facilitate dialogue to increase chances of getting to an agreement. Specific guidelines for mediation also set the parties up for success. Grandiose rhetoric suddenly evolves into realistic conversations about solving problems. As in divorce, kids are in the middle of this walkout. Grown-ups need to work together to protect the best interests of children.
Third, mediation would refocus demands and refusals with creative proposals from each side to find common ground. A skilled mediator would ask specific questions that uncover how one side might be willing to compromise on one issue “IF” the other side would at least agree to X, Y and Z.
Thoughtfully exploring different options together provides the best opportunity to reach solutions that may not be perfect, but may be good enough to temporarily resolve the issues.
Fourth, at the end of successful mediation both sides can claim victory together. The specific conversations in mediation remain confidential, but the final agreements would reflect that both sides have given and taken. Creative agreements would show that it was a collaborative effort to support Arizona’s children. Crisis would be averted. Public respect for teachers and state officials would skyrocket. Win-Win.
The first step toward progress is coming together. I call on Gov. Ducey and Arizona Educators United to take that first step now. I invite all Arizona citizens to join me in that call.
Michael Aurit, Esq., MDR is a professional mediator and co-founder of The Aurit Center for Divorce Mediation located in Scottsdale.