by Seunghee Cha
The Pioneer Valley is now home to a national organization called Mediate Your Life. I’m smitten with the name. It sums up my inner and professional life.
Conflict management occupies my mind daily. It’s there in my struggle not to nag my children as we rush out the door, when I’m feeling outsized anger at politicians, and at work when I counsel clients about money and family.
I am an estate planner. I help people address the What Ifs and the What Nows. If you died tomorrow, who would care for your child with autism? Now that your father is ill with Alzheimer’s, how will you protect your mother from impoverishment? Your spouse has died without a will; can you trust your stepchildren to honor her wishes?
Thoughtful planning takes time, honesty, and good communication. I try to help clients in the planning stage to anticipate and minimize discord. Some clients have frank discussions with their family about whom they have put in charge in case they become incapacitated or the unequal provisions they have made among their heirs. But things don’t always go as planned, and for some clients planning is not about gaining peace of mind but about settling a score or ruling from the grave.
I see clients paralyzed by pain when a beloved niece challenges the will and accuses them of malfeasance. Shock turns to resentment when an estranged sibling takes an equal share. These families need an insightful facilitator or mediator to help them hear each other’s concerns and interests and find common ground.
The proliferation of mediation these days raises concern about quality and competition in the market place. The concern is not unique to mediation. It’s true for litigators…and estate planners. The visibility of mediation as a preferred choice for conflict resolution should be welcome. As a colleague once said, wherever there is a conflict and a relationship to save, you need mediation.
Where isn’t there a relationship? Where isn’t there conflict?