Things I learned, or should I say re-established in my most recent mediation:
People have the natural reflex to make assumptions about others. It is why training in neutrality and asking open-ended questions to get to the truth is important. People will look at you and assume 1,001 things before you have even opened your mouth. Most of the time they are wrong. Even Sherlock Holmes was wrong sometimes and he was the master “reader”. That being said, body language and patterns of behavior can be very telling and often help us see more clearly what is going on.
For instance: when one party started talking about this upsetting message they received, they broke out into bright red splotches all over the face and chest. The person who sent the upsetting message started breathing heavily and got really, really quiet. I have noticed that when a normally outspoken and animated person clams up and gets cryptic it is often because they feel guilty about something. But again, don’t assume, instead ask a well-crafted question when they start digging their head into the sand.
Naturally, we on the panel really wanted to know what the message said. Wouldn’t you, if you saw that kind of reaction?
This was a tricky session because it involved racial tensions, generational and cultural clashes, and other domestic issues that were not going to be magically resolved in this time frame. But in the end, a candid discussion about some deep stuff transpired and everyone apologized for their behavior. I would say we did good work this week.